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the various and sundry creations of sylvus tarn


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.


cropI was so sorry to hear David Graeber had died. His book, Debt, along with Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century have deeply informed my current ideas about economics, and, I hope, given me a greater sense of generosity in, and the humanity—the decency, if you will—of people.

I presumed Graeber was a socialist, but it turns out he was an out and out anarchist as well, and since like most people my view of anarchists is the 1900s bomb-throwing stereotype promulgated by my high-school history book, I figured I'd post this link that explains what anarchism actually is; in short, it's the assumption that people will naturally organize themselves in decent ways. It is the original minimalist government, in other words!

Personally, I think there's a lot to be said for this approach, for which the teal deer version is that most people, if not threatened, will do the right thing and let others get on with their lives; I'd even say that the anarachist live and let live view can deal with parasitism, so long as there is some relatively robust way to determine when rooting out parasites costs more than tolerating them (worrying about voter fraud or ‘welfare queens’ are a good example of this); I do wonder how they approach sociopaths. (Sociopaths can actually be trained to be good, functioning members of society, btw. But what to do about the power-hungry ones? Again, events right now would seem to indicate that there needs to be some way to rein these folks in, if they don't manage to get the therapy they so desperately needed as children...)

My condolences to Mr Graeber's friends and family. —Not that today's doodle is much of a memorial, but know that his works made a difference to me, merely one of his many readers.


cropOh, failed to post on the 9th, so this is late. (Otoh, I did actually make art yesterday...)

So this is a sort of half post, just a note to myself about adapting chili-pepper cheese cornbread to cast iron and substituting grits for the cornmeal. Nothing too exciting, though we all enjoyed the rather rich outcome. Also, just because they've been open tabs for seemingly days, instant pot spaghetti which I plan to make as soon as I figure out how to modify the recipe for TVP chunks; and how to get that lovely smoky Chinese-restaurant flavor...with a torch. Frying things with torches, now that I can do.

Skillet cornbread, however, only requires an oven. Well, and a cast iron pan.


cropWhoops, forgot to finish this intro, yesterday. Oh well, Monday wasn't an official weekday, right?

How to make a turkey feather blanket —looks incredibly a) time-consuming, b) soft and c) cozy-warm. Also, did you know turkeys release their feathers when pulled, instead of bleeding to death? (Birds are much more fragile than mammals, as f2tE, a bird owner, has informed me on multiple occasions; until then, I had no idea. But as they're basically feathered dinosaurs, i.e. lizards, it makes sense—those critturs seem to be less robust.)

Or you can check out this notecard featuring bitter (or spreading) dogbane. Enjoy.


cropO hai, still writing the intro(!) for yesterday's page, found this thing from three weeks ago. Today's fugly is nude furries, though kittycats providentially store what is external genitalia on the inside:)

So instead of plowing through my netflix queue like a normal person, I've been watching video essays/critiques/deconstructions. It really fascinates me how this form is having a resurgence—when I was a young'un, the thought of book reports, and then critical essays, was regarded as a form of English Class torture. It's generally accepted, I think, that fanfic is a fictional form of critique, i.e. a way of engaging with, um, media (our new catch all word for not only novels/stories and film, but comics, anime, and especially games...) —Playthroughs, if you stop and think about it, are the new, modern book report.

Deconstructions are therefore critique for the masses. I discovered a long time ago that taking stuff apart was an accessible way to learn how to put it together, which is why I was for awhile obsessed with reviewing the (often crappy) romance novels I was reading. I did eventually (sort of) learn the mechanics for putting one together:)

Besides the problem of being unwilling to purchase specialized equipment to play games, huge swathes of the milieu are simply too violent for me to tolerate. I was reading some blog or other that recommended a critique of a video game called The Last of Us and lemme tell you, out of its roughly 90 minute time, I watched—mayyybe—a minute or two elapsed time, and 90% of that was 1) the dog petting scene 2) the giraffe interaction scene and 3) the zebra interaction scene.

This critique actually covered not only the original game, but also its sequel, which came out in 2013 and 2020, respectively. One of my friends said, “oh, that's more of a play along film than a game in which you make choices,” after I mentioned the player's frustration with the lack of less violent alternatives.

The videographer is not a gamer (she says), but I'm even less of one, and after watching listening to her essay (which I quite liked, and is very much in that genre of Lindsay Ellis and Hbomberguy's essays, which I also quite like) and then discussing it a bit with people who do play video games, I couldn't help wondering if the developer wasn't, with the ultimate conclusion of the first game (for which there will be spoilers, sorry) trying to show the fans of first-person shooters their logical outcome.

This was sparked by my thinking about the page I failed to post yesterday, planned for 3 weeks ago, and actually posted a fortnight today which is mostly about an academic exploration of the origins of superhero comics. Taken to their logical extreme, instead of the dream of absolutely powerful selflessly wreaking vengeance against baddies in service to the powerless, superhero comics are in reality a justification for vigilantism, authoritarianism, and—bonus—colonialism. Sooooo, I wondered, what about first person zombie shooters?

What is their real likely outcome, as opposed to the fantasy the game typically presents?

Again, it's pretty much acknowledged that if vampires represent a more extreme distortion of our fears of the elites (nobles/1 percenters) in fantasy form, then zombies equally represent mob rule. Both are monsters, popular targets to destroy in video games. There's been a lot of moral panic over the years about violence in video games—it was a big deal, years ago, when they first started getting really popular. (I'm old.) For the most part, that seems to have died down, and people seem to feel that shooting up a bunch of zombies or giant bugs or even humans, is an acceptable way to let off steam.

And because that agitating by moral scolds has died down...space for more nuanced critique has opened up, and that's what I suspect is going on in The Last of Us (even though I haven't played the game.) LadyKnighttheBrave argues the game is about empathy but I couldn't help feeling, given the ending of the 2013 game, that it was about examining its own genre tropes: as the title implies—indeed forecasts—the player character, the dad figure Joel, not only kills a lot of zombies and monsters (and other people) the final battle is to shoot up the hospital and kill the one, last remaining doctor capable of developing a zombie-vaccine to escape with his adopted daughter Ellie, because in making a vaccine against zombie-ism from the immune Ellie ...she'll die.

Joel does not (according to LKtB) consult with Ellie, and her analysis was trenchant enough that I believe her assertion that Ellie would have preferred to save humanity than have her protector kill an innocent doctor. Joel sacrifices humanity to save this child, whom he loves. Hence, The Last of Us. —The game starts out with shooting zombies as self-defense, and as LKtB's essay shows, the justifications for killing become ever more murkier, until, at last, they are (in my opinion, anyway) indefensible: save your child at the cost of the rest of humanity.

Shooting zombies in a video game is, ultimately, harmless. It's just electrons. Even shooting an innocent doctor in a video game is not costing anyone's life: it's what you do with the experiences you acquire in the game that matter. And the game was evidently a powerful and wrenching one. I can totally see why people, frustrated with the lack of progress in their meatspace lives (let alone in these COVID times) would want to take their anger and frustration out on monsters, or even other people, inside a virtual space. And I'm hardly the first person to point out that video games can potentially be intense training wheels for real-world moral dilemmas.

But it's fascinating to me the way the developer set up the ultimate, and harrowing conclusion, of this game. There is no escape: this is not like some game f2tE tried to get me to play where you could mostly avoid hurting and/or killing people: you get funneled down the shoot, until reaching the final, appalling, consequence. The sequel only just came out, so, not wishing to give away the ending for that, I'll just say that, again, the consequences appear to flow very logically from the choices that characters made the first time around.

I can't tell, from one video essay, whether, in fact, playing an immersive game of this sort would actually persuade anyone that no, really, we don't want to live in a dystopian wasteland in which one's safest reaction is to shoot first and worry later, as interesting as it is to pretend for awhile. That's not me being snarky: I get that more challenging tasks are also more exhilarating, and this game is plenty challenging! (I mean, I played a super gentle game called Flower and even I will admit that, much as I stressed out over the purple level with the nasty power lines, mastering that one also granted the greatest sense of achievement. Now multiply that by approximately 1000x...)

Were I on the level of some of these youtube media critics, I'd have some sort of useful conclusion, but I don't. I do know that many people have found video games useful in coping with or even successfully managing/curing mental illness. I find the level of violence in our media appalling, but I suspect that has more to do with the (lack of) censorship and/or taboo; iow, while I could wish that people could make more meaningful adult stories with less gore, I think I'm out of luck.

—Cue the comparisons of X ratings of sex (especially consensual sex, which is porn, as opposed to assault, which seems to slide in via the violence route) to violence and the usual bemoaning about the latter being so much more socially acceptable. And on that note, badly drawn nude kitty-furries.


cropToday is, I believe, the absolute drop-deadline (60 days) to register to vote in the US general election, so get on that if you're not already. Note that if you're voting by mail, you can wait to the last minute to drop off your ballot, but you must allow enough time for the post office to mail it to you: at least in my state, you must receive absentee ballots by mail.

I myself prefer to vote absentee, because then I can research with the ballot on hand—I generally find for the smaller races that the debates the Women League of Voters run are the most efficient way to evaluate candidates; these are usually put online, at least in our area. (The candidates in big races generally have their debates a) more widely advertised and b) have easily accessible websites with their platforms spelled out. The downside for them are the emotionally laden attack ads which often unfairly depict or emphasize fears. Though frankly I'd like to see COVID taken a bit more seriously. I mean, if we're this half-assed now, what are we gonna do when a real plague, that kills 20–70% of its victims, hits? Our current response is not a good look, people.)

Because I'm cheap, I prefer to physically drop off our ballots at City Hall, which is conveniently located a few blocks from my business PO box; this year, of course, I will be doing that to make certain the city clerk's receives them. —Overseas voting (which since one of the f2’s is currently living in Japan is a necessity) is kind of tricky, and I recommend calling your city clerk if this available to you, as the instructions can be a little confusing: there is no privacy sleeve for overseas ballots. Instead, they email a link to print out the ballot, and ideally, you not only put ‘official ballot’ but your (US) return address on the envelope. (This latter was not allowed by Japan.) —In order to protect overseas voters’ privacy, the people collecting/issuing the ballots and the people making the tallies are separate.

Not matter what your political affiliation is, I believe it is very important to exercise your franchise. Way too many people have fought—and some died—to protect this right that is also our most basic duty as citizens.