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the various and sundry creations of sylvus tarn


cropSomeone posted a link about a machinist who makes an 8 ball from brass and steel, which was certainly nice enough, though I was actually more fascinated by a) the comment that the technique and equipment used had been seen hereto only in a 100 year old book; and b) the comment with a link to another of this guy's videos, this one about the restoration of a vintage, possibly antique, ratcheting screwdriver.

I say antique ’cuz I don't ever remember my dad using a tool like this when I was growing up, and he was into fancy tools: he had a ratcheting wrench that used a similar mechanism, of which he was quite fond. Plus, the wooden handle is kind of a giveaway.

I actually have some old wrenches, mostly leftover from my bestie's grand-dad, which perhaps I should someday photograph, but in the meantime, here's another floral sketch.


cropO hai, I expect everyone's getting a bit tired of sunflowers, so let's shift gears to something slightly different—black eyed susans, which are almost exactly the same shape!

I have to admit, I enjoyed listening to this relatively successful maker (whose creations include patreon, amongst other things) discuss his many, many failures. My life has turned out okay, but I surely get the failures—stuff I'm convinced people will find awesome...that just fizzles. Over and over and over.

As one of the commenters on boingboing notes, the secret is to keep plugging away, till you finally hit upon something that catches. And then plug away some more, because the first success doesn't necessarily guarantee the next one. IOW, practice makes perfect.


cropSo many of my recent links seem to be kind of depressing, so I was charmed by this guy playing melons and kiwis. Before I clicked, I thought this might be like the story I heard from one of my friends about her son playing a cactus. I'd never heard of that! She was pretty bemused, and not terribly impressed.

As it happens, the melons just provide conductivity from the player's fingertips, that is, an input method. I wondered if I could find a clip of my friend's son playing cactus. (It seemed pretty unlikely.) While looking, I discovered something I didn't know, which is that John Cage pioneered this technique, while he was exploring music from plant materials in the mid 70s, and that people are continuing to play his compositions. Therefore, the kid wasn't just twitting his parents over his extremely expensive music major randomly messing about, but actually performing repertoire. And, wonder of wonders, here he is performing John Cage on the cactus after all: Pretty cool! —that I found this kid's work; that I got to hear it, finally; and that it wasn't some half assed experiment but actually part of a half-century tradition. (Not that a lot of half-assed experiments, particularly to the public's ear, didn't become beloved classics. Looking at you, Rite of Spring...)

I don't pretend to understand or appreciate modern experimental Western Art Music—I didn't care for 12 tone in college, which one of my suitemates, a piano major, adored; I simply haven't the background to appreciate this stuff (at a very high level—I liked the 1st and especially the found instrument 3rd piece in the tiny desk concert, but the cactus was played 2nd, and left me cold, except for finally learning what it was about. Zac's I liked better.) But I'm awfully glad it's out there for me to discover.

Alas, today's discovery is that I suck at painting flower centers. Ah, well.


cropOkey-dokey, let's unload some links...cool 1902 footage of Germany's ‘flying train’. I s'pose I oughta read this article from Time magazine on Conspiracy Theories. I have to say, I'm getting mortally tired of people falling for this crap, which looks to be fueled by much of the same resentment that Fred Clark has documented so skillfully. He's much more willing, it seems to me, to cut what he calls the ‘anti-kitten-burning coalition’ slack—or at least, make an effort to empathize with their fears, but it really seems to me that racism is the driving factor—after all, it's not like the rest of us aren't being screwed by the system, with PoC taking the brunt of it. —This is why I was so annoyed with an article a friend sent me, The West has a Resentment Problem for which the author's thesis is, rural communities did not recover at the same rate liberal urban centers did after the 2008 crash, so they all went for populists like Trump.

To which I say, baloney. Yes, I'm sure they're having a rough time. And all those barely hanging on PoC in cities aren't? Pretty much all the gains in the last 30 years have been going to the top decile (especially the top 1%) and for everyone else wages have been flat or falling. That doesn't explain why 45 got the white vote...but fanning these people's fear of change, loss of their rural lifestyle, their place as automatic first among equals via racist demagoguery does the trick just fine.

On a lighter note a randomly located xkcd suggests a slyly creative a cruel and unusual punishment to inflict upon one's enemies. Alas, I did this one to myself, long ago, thanks to Don Knuth and the TeX book...

Aaaaand, here's another perennial sunflower sketch/photo pair.


cropBefore stumbling upon a list of best children's books, I had not heard of Mo Willems, who evidently is a sensation, particularly for his all-id no-filters character, Pigeon. Well, given that kids tend towards the all-id no-filters approach to life, it makes sense they would identify.

But while listening to an interview about some of the author's new projects, the teaser for it promised “A New Creative Challenge (And So Should You) [try]”. Intrigued—it's only seven minutes, and as you may have noticed, I have been listening to a lot of crap stuff while making marks on paper—I waited to find out what this enticing practise could be. —As it turns out, the author's terror at trying new things was the bit with which I identified, but Willem's suggestion for getting kids to make art without easy access to art teachers in these covid times is...make art.

Well, duh. Kids are copycats, anyone, certainly any parent knows that. But there's that attitude again, well, we can be playful and odd, it's only for kids after all which when you stop and think about it is very strange to me: why do kids get to do the weird, fun, exploration stuff, why is it so important for them to make art/music/dance/drama to develop their little brains, and not us? It's kind of a disconnect in our society's priorities, there.

It doesn't need to be big or important art; it doesn't even need to be good art—I used to beg my mom to draw horses for me to copy, which she hated doing, because she “can't draw”. (Her drawings looked fine to three year old me.) Having something cool to show for one's efforts is, indeed, very nice, but ultimately, the real point of art is in the making of it, not the importance of the end—in some cases, merely the by- product. (Hello, gesture drawings.) In fact, I'd argue that everyday art, like this little note card, is more important than perfect, powerful, “important” art. Both for the artist and hir society, because while many people may be able to enjoy the pleasure of viewing big, important art, which isn't nothing, but I'd argue, rarely on a par with the joy—outright ecstasy, sometimes—of creation. Besides the ratio of creators to consumers is pretty low for great art; better to have many people experiencing that creative joy, even if only a very small one.


cropDo you remember all the wailing and bemoaning and promises to ‘never forget’ 9/11?

9/11 happened to be the wedding anniversary of people precious to me, who obviously could not have predicted, in the late 1940s, that their day would be overtaken by this hideous happening that, frankly, stays more in my consciousness because my dad died around that time, and I included a number of 9/11 beads in the hundred that I buried with him, than because of a ‘national tragedy’.

Even at the time I presumed that larger event would mostly fall out of the public consciousness, particularly that part that bombarded us with those unspeakably vulgar art-not-worth-the-name kitsch of crying eagles and waving flags; now the sort of people I associated with that crap are praying to their new idol, whose disdain for the sorts of folks who risked their life in that disaster, and are risking their lives in this current, much more appalling one, is unending and comprehensive.

Why yes, today is Fridayfugly. My thoughts are with everyone who lost loved ones, both to 9/11, and coronavirus. I am so very deeply sorry the state has failed you, then and now.