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the various and sundry creations of sylvus tarn

1may2021

cropHappy May Day, for those of you who celebrate it.

I made today's page because of an appeal I saw on youtube, and if you want the teal-deer, you can just go click on Medlife Crisis’ link, scroll down a bit & click on one the links to donate to one of three orgs he's recommending to help India with their truly dire COVID crisis. I picked Khalsa because I'm a luddite, do not understand any online payment fancier than a credit card (or USA bank) and they accept checks. (Sadly, I think they will still really need the money in the 1–3 weeks it will take to get there.)

But I have a particular reason for wanting to help them out.


Soooo, I'm still trying (& mostly failing) to add new software to my “photography workflow” (a fancy term for what you do with digital images after you click the shutter, which to be fair is where the bulk of the time and effort takes place) which is this week's excuse for no posting.

I even made some beads. Not terribly good beads, but beads. Much as I love drawing and other 2D media, beads have been a part of my artistic identity since childhood, but the reason they have been so important to my identity as an artist was basically an accident of history: I met a guy at an SF con who sold beads, and who took me to one of his favourite wholesale vendors at a gem and mineral show...and they hired me to work at their bead store.

That firm specialized primarily in semi-precious gemstone beads, because the owners were Indian, and very many beautiful semi-precious beads are made in India—from there, I found places better than the local craft stores to buy all kinds of beads, and then eventually how even to make my own of glass... and the rest is history.

I would not be the bead artist I am today without that history; and all those beautiful beads (as well as my employers) made me want to travel to India. I mean, the richly coloured and textured textiles, the gorgeous jewelry, the fabulous food, not to mention that, unlike much of the rest of Asia, if you want to learn one universal language for getting by in this country of 800 or so, the one to learn is...English.

India's not perfect, any more than the US is; but they're in absolutely dire straits, and I just felt, if I were going to travel there some day, and enjoy the culture and people and natural beauty (not to mention beads), then it behooved me to help them out a bit now, when they really need it. (Over and above the perfectly rational and selfish desire to stop variants in their tracks, though I think that's pretty much a lost cause at this point. Yes, it's infuriating—if only everyone just worked together, supported those who needed the extra help, this stupid pandemic would be over. But no.)

White is the colour of mourning in India (as it is in most of Asia). so I decided, white violets. (I don't know that either my donation or my link—who reads this anyway, besides me?—will make a difference but Dr Medlife Crisis asked so kindly and gently to spread the appeal, so here's his link again—and here's mine, on the theory that little acts of random attempted kindness at least don't hurt anyone.

23apr2021

cropWell, I guess yesterday was Earth Day, and I completely missed it. Happy Earth Day: at least it didn't snow...!

Since I featured squirrels last time, I could hardly avoid mentioning this guy & his charming photos of these furry tailed rodents and their antics; and the neighborhood squirrels and bunnies also have the advantage of being a) abundant and b) being habituated to people, which makes them pretty easy subjects, as these things go.

Which is not to say I can't spectacularly miss, as you'll see. But sometimes even abject failures can be rescued...

16apr2021

cropToday I tried setting up my cotton carrier ‘strapshot’, which, now that I have the various pieces and parts was fairly straightforward, though I had to switch back and forth between the product and the instructions for it to be absolutely clear on how it goes together.

Last time I tested this thing, on my lumix, I concluded that camera was simply too small for the system as designed, and gave it up. The sony alpha7c is small for a full-frame (in fact it's just slightly smaller than the olympus E620 it replaces) but with a two pound telephoto hooked on the front of it (also technically “small” and “lightweight”, according the to review, which just goes to show how spoiled I am by primes) I wasn't really keen on having hang off my neck.

This system attaches the camera to my backpack shoulder strap, which in my case distributes the weight down to my hips (I have an osprey stratos 24 pack that I love)...of course, when I was using the camera strap & tucked it between my neck and inside edge of the shoulder strap, that worked pretty well to distribute the weight as well, but I had to rest my hand on top of the camera to keep it from flopping around.

I guess I'll just have to practise more on the local wildlife, not only focusing and shooting the camera, but figuring out how to lug it around as well. In the meantime, another early effort.

14apr2021

cropHere's some pix from the new camera, and to be frank, they look a lot like pix from the old cameras. Mostly. But hey, figured I might as well round up the various photography links I've been accessing lately—it'll be convenient (at least for me) to have them collected together.

  • DPReview, my go-to site for deciding what camera I'm gonna get.
  • this dude (whose site I've encountered before—appreciate the old-skool, barebones design) also has a very thorough review of my eventual choice
  • all-around long lens to go with
  • Strobist has totally new —and much cheaper! equipment recces since I last attempted their free course. (Which, despite not finishing it was still really helpful!) With, of course, a special exception for sony, which would have a nonstandard hot shoe...
  • I usually shop B&H, as I've had good luck with them, but Adorama is also generally considered a reliable vendor, and they have a list of free online photography courses—I note my fave, strobist, is listed, which inclines me to check out the others.
  • how to use your fancy new alpha7c, for rank beginners. (Surprisingly useful even for people who are not absolutely rank beginners, because the guy helpfully explains why you might want this or that focusing mode, say.) Now if only I could, ahem focus, instead of obsessively watching the battery life decrease throughout the video...
  • Now, which lensbaby am I gonna get...?
  • Hey, maybe that cotton carrier system for my backpack, which is designed for a camera this size, as opposed to the lumix, will work out this time around. Carrying 3 lbs of equipment is no doubt nothing to the serious wildlife photographers, but it's still a pest: I want a secure, hands-free (& hopefully not too dorky) way to cart this thing around.

I expect the learning curve on this thing to be pretty steep—while still basically in the prosumer range, it's tiptoeing just far enough into low-end professional to have a lot of focusing modes—which means, I expect, that I'll be reverting to doodles. Or, I suppose, more bird and especially flower pix while I struggle to figure it out.

12apr2021

cropChocolate's a fermented food, who knew?

My watercolour palette is the white backside of a thin plastic coaster (with Picasso sketches printed on the obverse, how artistic) which originally I was gonna pitch because I just wanted the thin flat tin they were packaged in, nearly the perfect size and shape for my “big” set of watercolour pans (it's about 4x4x0.5"/100x100x12mm) but my sister-in-law recently gave me this awesome antique porcelain watercolour tray, and while I was tentatively able to identify the maker as Royal Talens, my research didn't turn up this particular model; however, I did find this review of porcelain palettes. I s'pose I ought to try mixing colours on a white plate to see if this is something I'd want—these things are kinda pricey, in addition to being heavy.

Laurie Anderson is re-issuing her Big Science album—on vinyl, naturally. The wizard was a big fan back in the day, and I think the concert we saw together might've been her from Strange Angels tour. He had a greater appreciation for her experimental style than I did, but I thought the audio drag and the spare white suits made a nice change from the girly clothes a lot pop musicians wore. Though I lost track of her, she's been busily creating art, especially mixed-media and avante guard pieces, all along. Pretty sweet.

Meanwhile, I'm just futzing around in a covid induced haze.

9apr2021

cropI hardly looked at the internet at all today! yesterday —Which basically means I only visited, like, 50–75 sites/links...? Jeez. This is embarrassing. (And means my ‘Throwback Thursday’ is showing up on a Friday. But hey, it's a friday-fantastic, instead of friday-fugly, cuz I get my shot today, yay:)

A friend and I have been wrestling with how we—for lack of a better term, sorry— conceptualize the ways in which memory, behaviour and trauma interact, and to that end I sent him a link about a woman's efforts to deal with the ways her interior and online lives had diverged after she called off a wedding—and the nearly decade long relationship it was to cement.

One reason this is a day late is that I realized my first draft was internally inconsistent: I needed a night's sleep to let the intro coalesce into coherency. It's not that I didn't sympathize with her pain of being fed “AwesomeWedding[dress|hack|$whatever]” when she'd cancelled what was supposed to be a celebration and now just wanted to bury that corpse and move on with her life. Instead, no matter where she went online, it seemed, she was bombarded with ads, suggestions, reminders of a painful failure.

And I certainly agree that people should have more control over their online lives, instead of being endlessly monetized, which is what all this comes down to. The temptation, (which surely beckoned) is simply to chastise this poor fool for pouring so much of her life online, instead of recognizing that “online” is becoming ever more part of our lives—indeed, it's been a lifeline during the pandemic.

What bugged me, I finally realized, was a disagreement over semantics, which sounds petty, but isn't: she wanted to “edit” her past life. But we're using the word in fundamentally different ways: right now I'm “editing” this post by basically rewriting it from scratch, because I'm attempting to sharpen up my arguments—what I have to say. That, to me, is what good editing is: honing one's writing, because I see good writing like a dance, in which the author starts by leading, in a clear way; the reader follows along, until they finish, and if there's engagement, then that reader takes the lead by responding—internally, or with words and pixels, as I'm doing here.

What she really wants to do is to use one technique out of a toolbox of many available to the editor: deletion. She wants to soften the experience overall by—in effect—deleting some memories that are holding her from moving on with her life via attrition, but she can't do that with the jab, jab, jab reminders everywhere she goes. That's fair! There have been times in my life where the only way I know to deal with something is to go to bed and hope things look brighter on the morrow.

And perhaps to a lot of people “editing” and “deleting unwanted/unneeded crap” are one and the same; but that's not at all the case for me: editing is a form of reworking, and the flip side of that reworking is that messy, ambiguous, no-heroes events can easily get massaged into tidy narratives in which my own culpability and error is lost. I don't want that. All those photos and other external aids memoir are not only a way to access my past, much in the way pointers allow computers to access files, but also help to keep my internal narratives, subject to the ongoing malleability of memory, honest.

I believe editing at its best makes things sharper, clearer and more honest. —Whereas, sometimes, if there's too much pain and trauma and forgiving ourselves is too difficult, we need to soften and forget instead. And blurring that distinction, I guess, was ultimately my beef with that article and its framing, because while both are strategies, they're not to be equally preferred.

IOW, her bad memories shine too hard, too long, too piercingly; mine fade all too quickly into forgetfulness.

And, um, speaking of old images popping up to remind one of the past—here's some from three years ago, both photos and drawings from a beautiful summer morning in 2018. Enjoy.