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the various and sundry creations of sylvus tarn


cropI saw a recce for Tillie Walden's Spinning on some top ten list or other, but didn't get around to reading it until it was pressed enthusiastically into my hands by S, who very much wanted to know my reaction to it. —Briefly, I think it's absolutely brilliant; I was particularly impressed by the author's story structure, especially as she finished this book—and it's over 300 pp. long—before she was even old enough legally drink.

Walden's memoir of her twelve years of skating is divided into chapters, each headed with the name of a skating move (e.g. lutz), a drawing of her doing (or failing to do) it, and her often wry description: these serve not only to provide a brief respite to the often emotionally laden storyline with interesting technical info, but also to telegraph shifts in tone.

Drawn in a simple, linear style, the creator relies upon large blocks of custom colour, dull blue-violet or pale yellow to convey the early mornings, the dark, the cold of the skating rink, as well as her shifting emotional timbre. She started out, she noted in her afterword, to expose the glittering (& tawdry) world of figure skating, but ended up dissecting her own relationship to it—her feelings—far more.

One of the reasons this book works so well is that, like her spare line drawings, Walden doesn't feel the need to explicate every event, or experience, or even feeling: she trusts the reader as her partner to fill in the blanks, and I believe this is why this comic works so well.

So much for the review.

But that's not actually what I wanted to write about, though what follows could be spoilerific (though as I said, the book is more about creating a mood than dramatic reveals, so ‘spoilers’ as such may not matter.) —I think the idea of this story fascinated my friend because although the author knew from a very young age she was gay, and accepted that she was gay, it took her a long time to figure out how to relate that to the larger world (not helped, I am sure, by living in Texas, though skating culture everywhere evidently has an exaggerated—and extremely strict—femininity that doesn't have much room for people who don't fit into that mold (which would include lesbians, let alone trans women, which my friend is.)

So I'm guessing the idea of this book resonates with my friend because of similar issues of trying to fit into a society that is still adjusting to all these “new” forms of gender presentation.

While I certainly emphasized with Walden's detestation of hair-in-a-bun, heavy makeup, tiny skirts & nylons (de rigueur for both figure & synchronized competitive skating), all of which I find so antithetical to my personal style that for many years I just assumed women that who adopted that presentation more or less felt compelled by societal pressure, not any internal desire (aided, to be sure, by the second wave's similar suspicion of very femme dress), what really interested me even more was the inspiration that sent her down the skating path.

Walden started skating very young, and instantly, vividly and completely bonded with her first skating teacher, basking in the warmth of touch and acceptance, to the point of persisting through screaming coaches, 4am alarms for practice and a life dominated by a sport she no longer wanted to pursue by the time she'd completed middle school. Besides not quite knowing how to quit, I suspect also that the precision of the ‘figures’ appealed to the obsessive part of her personality, just as winning satisfied the ambitious bits (I think you have to be relatively ambitious to perform as she did, let alone publish a complete graphic novel by 21.)

I had, for many years, somehow thought not that I was a better artist than some of my less assured friends, but that I had greater conviction; well, looking back, I don't think that's nearly as much to do with personal strength of feeling as luck: I had the same art teacher for 1st and 2nd grade, and I was bitterly disappointed when I returned to find her gone in third. (Back in those days, teachers could still hug their students, and like young Tillie, I have a vivid memory of the young[er] black male teacher comforting a little girl distressed by the departure of her old white lady teacher. Those grade school art teachers—without me consciously realizing it at the time (along with, to be sure, supportive parents)—cemented in me the idea that ‘artist’ was my identity. I am immensely grateful for this gift.

Skater did not ultimately prove to be Walden's identity, but as with all arts, it reflected who she was at the time. Art is about getting a message across to your audience, yes, but they cannot help seeing you, too.

Oh, um. Welp, that was long. Here's a handy link to today's post, about art, or at least xmasy crafts, (2 members of) our guild is doing, aka santa swap. Enjoy.


cropHi all. CiM's standard palette hasn't actually changed all that much from the sample strand I made in 2011, and updated in 2012; I pretty much have all the current colours made up. However, I would like to edit down my notes from lines and lines of ‘made thus-and-so colour’ to actual comments about the glass. Moreover, I managed to make up the ltd run sample pack & document that (i.e. photograph the beads & rods with stock numbers) so now the beads just need to be cleaned & possibly strung up.

All that's coming (along with some samples from Riley dichroic that I still need to make up:) but in the meantime we're back to giftwrapping, which after all was what I originally had scheduled for this week. Enjoy.


cropHey, about a break from all that giftwrapping for some other old and out of date material? The thing is, I won a sample set of colours from Creation is Messy, and though it will be awhile before I test them, I thought I could at least dig out some older samples, such as this one from 2012.

If that doesn't float your boat, how about a link to this gorgeous pic of grand central station? Bonus shots of the hoover assorted dams, the great public works projects of their day, I guess.


cropThe intros have been kinda heavy lately, to the point where even I don't wanna look at ’em. So here's a cool link to a bunch of cool vintage cutaway maps of London.

Or you can check out the latest in the giftwrap series.


cropBack when I was a sweet cranky rude young thing, I tended to finish books, because it just seemed proper to do, to not give up in the middle. I'm much less patient now, even with good stuff. So mebbe I'll finish this 80pp paper of potterian economics and mebbe I won't; but having plowed through roughly 25% of it, my opinion hasn't changed markedly from the first page (and, I suspect won't if I do finish) because it can basically be summed up as:

Dude. This is all very well, and I love me some meaty footnotes, but, yanno, fanficcers figured out all this stuff a decade ago. Really. Cuz I was incorporating their observations into my fics in 2008.

That is, though it has a lot more cites and lots more jargon, the author's thesis, so far as I can tell is that

  1. People are influenced by pop-culture depictions/models of economics
  2. Most fiction writers have only a lay knowledge of economics
  3. The potterian universe has all sorts of economic inconsistencies.

Yeah, we know. Fiction is not just about entertaining people, it's about getting into their heads—who knew? (Le sigh.) I still remember someone thoroughly documenting the problems with exchange rates between UK and wizarding money; with the fact that Harry's aunt and uncle would've been receiving a quite generous allowance for him (never mentioned); that the government is inefficient, ineffective and corrupt; that the fact that wizarding kind's magical abilities drastically reduced their cost of living; etc. My own HP fanfic built on these observations, which is why, when urged by a fellow writer to move to original fic, I chose the 1950s as my time period because like the potterverse which inspired them, they were fun and happy on the outside, and problematic once you started digging.

Not to mention the, er, problems with the greasy, hook-nosed goblins and the happy slaves house-elves.

But the authors of this paper aren't aware of those earlier, just-as-serious but non academic essays. To be fair, they were posted on a heterogeneous assortment of blogs, personal websites, livejournals and the like; I'd be hard-pressed to find them today (though I'd probably start with red hen and the Harry Potter Lexicon—both of which are still online.)

Moreover, like a lot of kidlit, the Potterian (adult) world has to have some major problems, because otherwise, the stresses, let alone criminal dangers to which Harry and the other children are exposed (& which drive the plot & make the books fun) wouldn't otherwise be tolerated. But I expect economists, mostly not being fantasy authors, are not as aware of this convention. Even so, there's any amount of thoughtful fanfic that addresses how far ahead the muggle world is not only terms of tech, but social systems as well.

It's not that I don't appreciate rigorous academic analyses being applied to fun little (or not so little) corners of fandom; it's just that I wish there was a bit more crosstalk between thoughtful fen (i.e. laypeople) and the academics. Which is not exactly a new problem, and this paper does show a clear familiarity with, and understanding of, its source material (as opposed to those high-falutin’ interpretations of art, though I think dadaist manifestos and the like didn't help...) —I'm just stumbling over that old problem of marginalized communities (in this case the fans) having their voices ignored outside of their own spaces until someone with more prestige comes along and all the sudden everyone is so impressed, I guess.

Oh, and here's another little holiday giftwrap job. Enjoy.


crop’Tis evidently the season not only for snow, commercial xmas stuff but also stories about sexism in school or the workplace. An awful a lot of people (mostly women, but some men, too!) have been telling their stories for years, just not particularly publicly. Well, here's mine:

Back when I was taking commercial art classes—keylining and airbrushing, specifically—post-degree to improve my job chances, I had completely different experiences between my two profs at CCS (widely regarded to be the commercial art school in our region, especially for industrial design).

I took keylining long enough ago that we were still using spraymount and wax to affix our copy, though I expect the pros were already on board with computer layout. —I don't think the teacher liked me very much. The two incidents I recall the most were these: He asked me, once, whether I was pregnant, because I was in (quiet, non-class-distracting) tears over a ruined (expensive) board (I was poor). And he called me Syphilis.

It was so appallingly mean I simply didn't know how to react. Now, of course, I'd report him to the dean, or whoever, stat. But to say something so ...unprofessional to a student —it just blows my mind. I consider myself lucky, in that I knew perfectly well I was in a committed relationship with no chance whatsoever of contracting an STD, so that shaft went wide. I just couldn't imagine a teacher —someone who presumably loved transmitting knowledge to others—being so cruel. It didn't even occur to me to wonder whether if his (clear) evidence of despising me affected my grades. I count myself fortunate in that this event was unusual, and thus I realized, even then, that the problem had to be with him, not me.

My airbrush teacher, on the other hand, may not have been terribly impressed with my talents (with justification, I suspect), but he was always kind and professional. He worked in the same city as I lived, and I stopped by the firm to pick up a reference at the end of class. He was almost non-verbal, he was so deep into his work, which fascinated me deeply, since he was perfectly able to teach. He was a good teacher, passionate about his subject. Those two were alpha and omega.

In fact, aside from this one creep, I had good to excellent relationships with most of my profs; certainly no others creeped on me, even if they weren't happy with me academically. In that, I guess I was incredibly lucky, though perhaps the combo of being nearly oblivious and having permanent resting bitch face helped.

Oh, and here's another giftwrap post, a elegant silver confection by my friend Page. Enjoy.