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the various and sundry creations of sylvus tarn


cropYou probably know about the 1918 era flu pandemic, but did you know the US had an outbreak of the actual plague (as in, Black Death)? In San Francisco, at the turn of the 20th century? Me either. But we did, and it dragged on for seven years, owing to (you guessed it) its disproportionate attack upon the poor & PoC, denial by the state's governor and the white population's belief that unlike those filthy Chinese, they couldn't get sick (despite the disease being most famous for killing something like half of Europe's population in the Middle Ages—I'd ask how people could be that pig-ignorant/buried in denial, excepting we're arguably doing worse with Corona right now). Anyway, a fascinating narrative of this long forgotten history, from Cailtin Doughty, a mortician with a whole slew of videos on various death related topics.

She also advocates for more intimate and family centered burials—she had a Ted talk on them, and people thought she was nuts for laying out (pun intended) our customs of just a century or so ago, when the family female relatives laid out the dead, & then there would be a wake (often with the guest of honour featured on the dining room table). I'm not an expert, but even I know that people mostly died (& were born) at home back then.

This is why you bone up on history, folks. Or at least read old novels.

Cuz not only would people not be so horrified by our own burial customs of a century ago, we'd also be more aware of the recurring popularity of conspiracy theories, and the dangers of populists. Both of these are as old as human civilization.

Anyway. Here's a drawing featuring a technique also very common in those olden days before photography started replacing etchings in print media: cross-hatching.



cropHeh, sorry about the, um, fortnight or so nearly month long hiatus—but hey, with a couple of exceptions, this marks the end of a six month lampworking dry spell—I worked glass 3x in May, once in July, a couple of times in September (only because Fran visited & wanted to work glass)... mostly filling the warm months with low-stress doodles instead. On the upside, the saddle joints in my thumbs, especially the R, are feeling much better.

My computer is whining (literally) which means it's time to dump some links & restart it, sooooo...I had no idea that Violet Liuzzo was buried in Southfield MI. I used to work there, many moons ago (like, before I married) and my memories were of an ugly town full of cheap, unattractive buildings lining Southfield Road; also, there was a little Iraqi travel agency whose sign was stove in shortly after the first Iraq War (i.e. Bush I) that has always represented to me part of the invisible cost of war; besides all the dead, here was someone's little business, destroyed by nativism. —When I went to France, the people with whom I traveled went to famous graves, and though I liked seeing the historic stones, I really didn't see the point. (Ditto, New Orleans). But I would lay a bead on Ms Liuzzo's plot.

I'm currently struggling through George Hutchinson's Facing the Abyss: American Literature and Culture in the 1940s, of which one theme is the idea that however divided we might be by our various identities, human experience is universal, and therefore, by reading, say, Black Boy,[1] one can identify with people who look very different. That emphasis has shifted to so-called identity politics, and one of its tenets is that people need to see ‘someone who looks like them’. I think part of the reason this is that, after the Civil Rights act passed (or mebbe before) the Black Community concluded the universalist approach wasn't working out so hot for them, so they switched to this on the theory that it was more useful to get their own fired up. I don't blame them, and Ms. Cheung's book on 4th wave feminism looks worthwhile (& probably a good deal more accessible than the academic tome I'm plowing—or failing to plow—through now.

On the fiction front, nearly every one of these nanowrimo inspired novels looks appealing. Wonder which if any the library has...?

Via bb, some band named Tool's lead guitarist is also very talented at film-making, as this creepy-gothy shifting-into-techno ad for a guitar demonstrates. Mostly saved because I have a old-person fondness for prog rock & wanted at some point to check out more of the band's music.

Also via bb, Double Dutch (traditionally practised by Black girls) like jazz, seems to excite some Japanese cultural sensibilities, which I find interesting. Also, the Bees team is awesome.

Somewhere or other in the NYT is a review of an unassuming chef's update of his book, which celebrates making do (the chef noted that throwing out food made him physically ill, and yes, he would check the garbage daily to see if anything could be salvaged); this bb article has a link about a sommelier who dismantles all that high-falutin myth-making about wine. Again, bookmarking what looks to be a fascinating vin-infused version of the geeks versus hipsters, and, of course, I'm firmly on the side of the geeks (& not just because I know almost nothing about wine except that I like sweet sherry and that light pink stuff more properly known as zinfadel.

COBOL doesn't have nearly an old a history as wine, but in terms of computer languages, it's ancient. My dad evidently had to program in it, and he loathed it. So does just about every other computer programmer I know. —I've been aware that it's the backbone of banking, but this bb article is the first time I've encountered an argument as to why this might be a good thing.

Mebbe I should call this collection the ‘boing-boing seems to have had an unusually good run lately’ link farm? Craft of all kinds fascinates me, especially traditional kinds. I've not seen bamboo worked much, as it's not part of our tradition, but several things struck watching this video about a man who builds a toy boat for his grandson:

  • lots (and lots and lots) of mortise and tenon construction
  • no use of glue. At all.
  • The initial sawing technique (& the saw) reminded me of jeweler's saws.
  • The foot-on-strap and nail hold-down looked to me ingenious, flexible and ofc v inexpensive.
  • while all the tools—including the twine-driven drill—were hand tools, the working edges were all good quality steel, and measurement tools (metal measuring tape & square) were modern, as was the sharpie.
  • the rural setting—indeed the whole video—could be considered a sort of Chinese cottagecore, but though I generally love traditional asian instrumentals, the soundtrack on this was sappy to the point of significant annoyance—I would've just preferred the sound of the tools and the cicadas in the background.

Cottagecore, at its heart, is a fantasy escape from the darkness of our times: a coping mechanism (one that quite personally appeals, btw—oh, the noise pollution of leaf blowers...); So are these tiktoks by women (often of colour) inserting themselves into Harry Potter narratives (NYT, sorry). It's a sort of audio-visual form of self-insert fanfic, but what I like about it is that these women are reclaiming a beloved franchise that has suffered all too often from racism and queer-phobia, transphobia in particular. Mary Sue for the win!

Ultimately the reason this blog went dark was over my anxiety concerning the election and the uncertainty of the aftermath. So I'll just finish up with this (NYT again, sorry) link about the children of Argentina's “disappeared” who used public exposure and shame to finally bring their parents’ murderers to justice. I was particularly moved by the section near the end about the women who gave birth only to have their infants stolen, before being killed themselves. Can't think why that resonates... Would that our own such criminals face prosecution.

Anyway. Here's a few, mostly covid-inspired beads.

[1]another book I tried, & couldn't finish.


cropI recently watched most of PBS special about three poverty stricken families in Ohio, and how their struggles have become even more difficult during the pandemic. Like many commenters, I deeply admired the maturity of biracial Shaun, and felt for Black Kyah talking about being ‘drained and dark’ (of mood); how her teeth hurt, because of no money for a dentist, but the pretty, plump, blonde child mostly bugged me because she was so undisciplined...she's diagnosed with ADHD, but doesn't like to take her medication.

Well. She comes off irritating and undisciplined because she needs more support than drugs that make her feel like crap...and why no I don't know anything, anything at all about being undisciplined and all over the place. No sirree! So, apologies, this is a day late.

On a more explicitly political level, I gather a bunch of folks are giving AOC a hard time for going on the cover of Vogue and doing a spread in 14K worth of clothes. It kind of boggles the mind that people don't immediately realize these clothes are on loan (though I guess, with a salary of 200k/annum, AOC could purchase if she wished—though if she's travelling back home every week, then only 30 of those 50 odd trips are included, not to mention maintaining two households, etc, her living expenses have to be pretty high). She's perfectly capable of defending herself, of course, but that exchange did lead me to this vogue? mini-documentary of her morning makeup routine, which I found pretty interesting.

Because, of course, as with nearly everything she puts out on social media, she filters this part of her life through a political, feminist, intersectional lens, and that, I found pretty interesting. She's hardly the first person to note that women who bow to the patriarchy and wear makeup realize gains in tips, wages and career advancement, something that I, who won't wear it (except under the rarest of circumstances) deeply resented them for back in the day—instead of being angry at the real culprits, the men. I'm grateful for the ‘lipstick feminists’ third wave for taking a more nuanced view on this conundrum, which is to a) wear what pleases and b) make the world a fairer place for all —women who don't want to paint, and men who do.

Speaking of femininity, I have another doodlesque interpretation of Countrapoints’ Tabi-chan, which I was specifically trying to make super-feminine looking...Chan is a dimunitive suffix in Japanese, sort of like adding ‘ie’ to a name (e.g. Bob to Bobbie), and since one of Contrapoints’ characters answered the phone ‘moshi-moshi’ I know that the character does have a specifically Japanese component (as a fan, perhaps of anime and manga.) Which is my rather tortured leadup to the last of my links, about a westerner in Japan who made a video about going into Japanese supermarkets (‘Supa’). I'm not sure it would really be very funny to anyone without some experience of Japan or its language (he belongs to a cadre of youtubers catering to English-speaking westerners trying to learn the language) but I laughed so hard I cried—and it's been far too long since that happened. (I watched it again, and yeah...by the time he got to the fake peanut butter I lost it—I still have very fond memories of the Japanese immigration officer poor guy checking our luggage when we came to visit f2tY the last time, who wondered why we had a case's worth of canned pinto beans tripping his scanner, because, like peanut butter and decent cheese,[1] they're simply not available.)

Stay safe, and as sane as you can, everyone.

[1]well, you can sort of get good sharp cheddar from specialty shops, but it costs the earth.


cropHope you're all staying safe and sane, ’specially in those hard-hit states—by covid, the hurricane Zeta, the wildfires. The election is a week away, armed groups on both sides are counter-protesting each other—I did derive some hope from the fact that they didn't shoot. Both reported to the NYT that they were deeply frightened.

I despise the way the current administration is sowing FUD—fear, uncertainty and doubt. Microsoft tried to do that to the linux OS, instead of campaigning on the merits of their own system. I see strong parallels right now, except the stakes, critical as they were, were still far lower than the ones for the current election.

Nevertheless, no matter which candidate you support, I urge all US citizens to exercise their right to vote. It is the single most basic way to move the country in a direction you want it to go. So with that, I have a couple of anime-ish neko-chan urging you to exercise your franchise.


cropYesterday was Wonder Woman day! —I didn't know she had a day. She's really part of the holy trinity, so to speak, of superheroes: the other two, of course, being Superman and Batman—the ones everyone knows, or did when I was a child. (Spiderman comes up gamely as a next-gen 4th.) Like a lot of people my age, I imprinted on the Lynda Carter version.

That, and the Ramona Fradon cartoon I referenced ealier, was the inspo for today's doodle.


cropToday's sketches, though rough, were the beginning of what I consider—finally—to be a coherent series for inktober, as well the one where the idea really coalesced: clearly, I've been thinking about this for awhile, but it was today that I decided every drawing from now till the election could feature variations in lettering on the word ‘Vote’. Or, at least, on the theme.

I'm hardly the only one—Contrapoints has a new video out explaining why Bernie supporters and other leftists should vote for Biden ; AOC played livestreamed a game (Among Us) on twitch for GOTV. I haven't anything that exciting, but it's my little contribution.