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the various and sundry creations of sylvus tarn

1sep2020

cropHave I mentioned that 2020 sucks? In yet another way it sucks, I was so sorry to hear of Chadwick Boseman's death from colon cancer. Yeah, knowing it's coming down the pike ...does help you to prepare. Some. I got to say goodbye to my dad. But I lost him to this pernicious disease when he was 70, not 43. However I think my grandmother was just 49 when she died of it, leaving behind my mom who was...nine?

My deepest sympathies to Mr Boseman's family and friends. This was way too soon.

So colon cancer sucks, and while I'm not gonna actively recommend lying, my dad's oncologist recommended, in the strongest possible terms, that we all start getting colonoscopies at 40. I argued (&, um, lied a little bit) with my insurance company for about 3 years, finally getting my first test when I was the same age Mr Boseman was when the disease took him.

I was lucky: despite the doctor telling me as I was lying on the table for the procedure that I didn't need it, she went ahead and performed it. I forget exactly how many polyps she and her team sliced out of me, but there were enough that her attitude went from ‘you don't need this’ to an emphatic ‘we want you back in three years.’

Since then I think mayyyybe one I've had was entirely clear? (I've had the same gastroenterologist for the last 3, which is good, because I've mostly gotten them trained not to turn my brain into slush by over-anethestizing me) and the last time he saw me, he said, ‘oh yeah, the polyp girl.’ —As long as they keep chopping out those polyps, I live. They miss one—and my father was killed by the harder to spot flat kind—I go the way (with far less dignity, I'm sure) of Mr Boseman.

Yes, the prep sucks. (The actual procedure, provided they don't drug you out of your mind, is a snap, and if you're lucky you'll get to see a bit of them rummaging around your insides.) Last time I found liquids to clean out one's bowels were so foul that I'm wondered whether fasting for 3–5 days might be preferable for the next one (which, thank goodness, is not due this year). But lemme tell you, as a person who has lost a grandmother, father, and uncle to this disease, and had a first cousin my exact age have a quarter of her large intestine chopped out (again, roughly at Mr Boseman's age), dying from colon cancer is far worse.[1]

So that's my little PSA. Also, I have a drawing. Alas, it's not of the Black Panther, though that would be very fun to draw.

[1]Though I'd still rather do that than dementia. I can safely have this preference while I'm not suffering from the disease, yet...

31aug2020

cropAs I was going through some older (unfinished) pages and then pix, I stumbled across the badly disorganized mess that was my 2016 phone pix, and cleaned it, thereby discovering some of the images I used for today's post, as well as the potential for a longer project. (We'll see if I actually get anywhere with it...)

In the meantime, BB has featured a very fun visual experiment that short film clips make very easy: how, for example your visual processing lags, a bit, behind reality. It's similar to the ‘push’ colours on grey: Put an intense hue next to white or neutral grey, and it will ‘push’ the neutral to the hue's complement. (Thus a bright red square next to a white or grey one will make it look green.) This is the sort of thing I learned in colour theory.

But in this update, you stare at an intense chromatic complement from a coloured photograph, then switch to a black and white version...the second time around I did this very fun experiment, I could watch as my visual processor actually stuttered, laying first (IIRC) a somewhat pale (pastel) version over the B&W, stuttered briefly to B&W (i.e. reality), then flashed a vivid coloured version, before settling down to the desaturated image actually before me. It was like watching my mind adjust in real-time—loads of fun!

Speaking of complementary colours, today's flowers show how nicely they can combine.

28aug2020

cropHm. Hashiuchi-san found my fascination with Japanese manhole covers a little strange, but claimed that my weird, outsider's perspective showed him beauty in Japan he hadn't hereto noticed. (I'm paraphrasing here.) —It was very gratifying, but of course now whenever I hear about new manhole covers, I get unduly excited. I like the ones featuring traditional patterns (& without color) the best, but even I have to admit these pokemon manhole covers are totemo kawaii —absolutely adorable.

Yup, instead of insufferable essays that go on forever, weakly propped by sketchy [non] art, there's an actual finished drawing, that its owner framed and hung on the wall, and everything, just like real art.

27aug2020

cropI've followed Contrapoints and Lindsay Ellis for a relatively long time, and think they're both really good at what they do; I'd add HBomberguy to this list of really good youtube video essayists. —Obviously, if you've been following my entries recently, I've been amusing myself by staring at screens, especially ones featuring deconstructions of media I often have not even seen.

While I've seen some good stuff by a bunch of people, those three authors are, to my mind, real standouts of the form. I don't know that I can precisely articulate what makes their essays so good, but I have noticed that they tend to pull layers of meaning together, often braiding seemingly disparate elements in unexpected ways; fun visual and verbal deliveries at varying levels of exaggeration; and a depth of humanity that, honestly, humbles me.

But the real upshot is, how can I learn to write such engaging narratives?

Hmmm. That's gonna be a challenge. Well, they say it's always a work in progress, which today's certainly is.

26aug2020

cropSo after watching an hour plus long 12 part video on the history of Bronycon (and doodling) that I discovered was a bit more complex than the narrative I'd heard, which basically was that bronies were obnoxiously sexist outright misogynist over a franchise designed for little girls, and also, nazis. (While as a child I passionately collected the Marx toys’ Thunderbolt—I have some 10 iterations on the shelves behind me as I type this, plus some of the other models, besides the more expensive, smaller but even more realistic [& therefore more desireable] Breyers, cartoons masquerading as toy ads in general and My Little Pony in particular weren't really a thing until I'd already left for college.

No longer having easy access to television, By then disdaining children's programming, I never watched MLP in any of its iterations—nor, thank goodness, got addicted to plushies/funko/any of the other myriad dust collectors dolls for adults—well, excepting a lingering used-Breyer habit I rationalize cuz I'm gonna learn repaints. Someday. In the meantime, we won't discuss beads. Or glass. Or indeed any art supplies. Never mind the stuff that masquerades as art supplies— paper ephemera, broken crockery, other stuff too good to throw away... Let alone my childhood habit of collecting rubberbands, which at least had the benefit of being a) free and b) compact. Why no, I don't currently collect rubberbands. Not at all. Well, only to use. But I still like the purple ones best.)

Reading the comments of Jenny Nicholson's essay made it clear that sexism in general (& homophobia in particular) was a problem with brony culture, but this story, unlike that of, say, gamergate, has kind of a happy ending:

The biggest Brony con (i.e., Bronycon), seeing the fandom thinning down, rather than choosing to keep limping along, instead had a great big goodbye party in 2019 (which turned out, in hindsight, to be an excellent decision), and tons of people came to celebrate its last hurrah, and were kinder to each other, and also, what's left of the fandom was engulfed by the furries, so the cis-white-hetero types had to learn to deal, pretty much, with queerness. Yay.

But, yanno. Youtube algorithms. I guess if Michelle Obama can admit to being depressed, it's okay for me to spend waaaaaaaaay too much time watching mostly listening to pop culture critiques, and how could I resist one titled (drum roll please...ta da!) Nobody on the planet remembers Beastly.

Well, I do. [1]

I detested Beastly, and was curious to see what someone else who loved to loathe it had to say. Certainly the youtuber, Jenny Nicholson, has put a lot more thought into why this film failed than I could be bothered to do, though our opinions generally tracked. So I learned less, perhaps, than I hoped; still, there were some juicy nuggets.

For example, Nicholson speculated that Hunter (the Beast character) really seemed more like Gaston than the Beast, an observation that made a lot of sense and hadn't really occurred to me. Her point that he should've remained ugly made perfect sense, frex. In fact, the parallels with the Disney film were so strong that I'd never suspected there was a book until I saw this youtube critique (Nicholson asks at the end, ‘Should I read the book?’ to which I wondered, which one?)

I mean, there's tons of B&B retellings (such as McKinley's second version which deftly explores a version of Nicholson's proposed alternate ending for this film) —wait, is there one this movie is specifically based off of? Why, there is! —I had no idea. It's hard to tell from the Goodreads reviews whether it's any better than the film (though generally the book is), but since our library has a copy, now I just need to wait for COVID to die down enough for the local branch to re-open.

Or break down and ride over the freeway to the main branch, or figure out how to read ebooks from the library, both things I haven't gotten quite desparate enough to do...

Gaston's character is an interesting addition to the canon, because as Lindsay Ellis explains in her excellent essay about the Disney B&B their version shifts the major character arc from Beauty, who must get over her revulsion of an ugly beast to the see the goodness underneath, to the Beast, who must learn to behave humanely, instead of like the spoiled, selfish brat he is at the beginning of the film. (It should be noted that the original was an attempt to resign young women to dull, middle aged wealthy merchants, that is, their fathers’ choices—rather than handsome young shepherds and the like, i.e. their choices—so it makes sense that the Beast is usually depicted as a somewhat older person.)[2]

So, instead of the evil (or good, as in McKinley's splendid adaptations) sisters urging Beauty to wreck her relationship, Gaston is introduced as a foil for the Beast: handsome on the outside, heartless, vain, and abusive inside. —To be sure, this is (possibly) a bit of a callback to the famous French film, in which the Beast, once returned to a human shape, shows an unpromising likelihood to revert to crappy behavior that went along with that human form. (This is part of the reason why the end of the classic Belle et Bete was such a let down. It doesn't have the proper happily ever after implied, at all.)[3]

But the main reason that Gaston is added is because now that it is Beast's character arc that is the focus of the story, so he needs an antagonist to heighten the plot's tension. In the older versions of the story, Beauty's vain and unpleasant sisters attempt to trick her from returning to the castle in time to save the Beast (who has told her he will die if she's late), because having lost the family wealth, they deeply resent Beauty's fabulous (literally!) lifestyle, in sharp contrast to the poverty they must now endure. (In McKinley's superb update, their loneliness in missing their beloved sister plays much the same role, considerably adding depth to the storyline.) Gaston begins with that role, but at the film's climax, actively attempts to kill his rival.

This is why Beauty has no sisters in the Disney adaptation: they're not needed to drive the plot. —Gaston, like the ugly version of the stepsisters, is not a particularly complex character, though I do think the film has something to say about mobs (especially now...) but his presence clearly implies the shift in narrative focus.

Okay, so back to Beastly. The one aspect that Nicholson touched up in the briefest of ways, and for which I kinda-sorta-feel this film (just barely) deserves credit is that both characters need redemptive arcs. That is, as Nicholson makes clear, they're both assholes. They don't get them—Hunter is still calling people sluts at the end of the film, and Linda is complicit in his bad behavior (weakly explained by a desire for bad boys. Blech. This also—presumably—explains why in the original version Hunter is shot by a drug dealer/gangster, [instead of stabbed by Gaston, thereby marking the Disney lineage] but the film is so muddled, even before the studio changed the ending, that the parallels between the two aren't particularly clear.) But that would be cool, to create a B&B story in which both characters had to equally grow and develop—which, when you think about it, generally is necessary to the best love stories, which this indubitably is.

But! Even without having read the particular book on which the film is based, I can explain why Linda takes a selfie with pre-Beast version of Hunter (which seemed to really puzzle Jenny Nicholson—yup, this entire long essay is merely so I can do the written version of Me! Me! Pick me! I know the answer to this one!): it's a call back to the very oldest versions of the story, in which Beauty dreams of a handsome man prince, who begs her to search for him; she later finds his portrait, iirc, in a miniature, hung up in a chandelier or the like. I think it's part of a bracelet that she wears, and it's sort of the excuse for her still/having fallen in love with the unenchanted version, in much the way the Little Mermaid falls in love with a statue of the prince. That sort of thing—falling in love with a portrait—used to be a common trope in 1700s and 1800s fairy tales.

This portrait foreshadowing is evoked in various ways through the versions—a portrait in McKinley, a ripped portrait in the Disney version, and...a selfie in Beastly. That's actually sort of clever. [4]

The film is still bad. Kudos to Ms. Nicholson, for being able to find enough good in this film to be able to rewatch it. I only am capable of hating on it.

So. Not only is the vomiting of text merely so I can explain a minor point about a video essay that goes into a film most people have justifiably ignored, to add insult to injury, today's “art” is merely doodles I made while listening to said essays, that is, an excuse to post all this verbiage.

[1]So started a furry lion head doodle while listening to this. Why a lion furry? Welllll, does anyone remember that ancient tv series featuring some guy named Vincent who lived in NYC's sewer system, and I think the female lead is a lawyer, or prosecutor, or something...? I would've eaten that version right up if only I'd had tv... if only I could still stand to watch network tv...

[2]And where did I read this essay...?

[3]That's what I remembered, anyway. But it's been 20 or 30 years since I've watched it.

[4]Well, except for the part that it sets up the Beauty character as heartless and complicit, aka having your character act like an ass/be TSTL in order to include a cool plot bit, since she watches on standby as her would-be bad boy behaves cruelly to a woman he's tricked while waiting for her chance of a selfie. Oops.

25aug2020

cropI have been watching Giri/Haji (Duty/Shame) on netflix, which aside from being kind of violent for my taste (pretty much anything above kid shows for 10 year olds is) I think is pretty cool. We're only about 3 or 4 episodes in, but there's a couple of things I've already noticed, and appreciated (besides the opportunity to fail to practise my Japanese—the show has dialog in both languages, but they use pretty informal, often slurred everyday speech):

  • though the lead, Kenzo Mori (played by Takehiro Hira) is tall and handsome, his Brit counterpart, Sarah Weitzmann (played by Kelly MacDonald) is ...not. She's ordinary looking, and judging from her publicity stills, this is a very deliberate choice on the part of the producers. Which makes the character super-appealing to me, cuz this is almost unheard of for female characters under the age of 40. (She's 44.)
  • The use of aspect ratios and colour is fascinating: so far there are in addition to the “standard” present time combo of ‘regular’ colour there's
  1. super wide, with diagonal camera angles:(scenes depicting the source of the title)
  2. black and white: (past, happier times)
  3. animated: summaries, 3rd person stories, other ‘mythic’ accounts
  4. sort of a 1970s bleached old-photograph colour: (the protag's childhood)
  5. pretty sure there's at least one more I'm missing...

Anyway.

Here's something else unfinished, a couple of doodles intended to be incorporated into larger pieces.