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the various and sundry creations of sylvus tarn

magic window

27feb2015

So last night I went to a presentation of our local history from, say C.E. 1000 to the present, with a focus from the mid 1600s to the mid 1800s. A lot of this stuff might only be of interest to locals, but I learned a couple of things of more general interest. One is that ‘sippy’ or ‘seppy’ means river (as in, Mississippy) in, if my notes can be trusted, (one of) the Huron language. (A note: I do know that tribe name is to be preferred, but when referring to assorted groups, for this post, I will defer to Mr Siegfried's preferred usage, ‘Indian’, which he sees as value-neutral.)

Two, they traded all over the continent—shells from the Gulf of Mexico made it all the way back to the St Lawrence basin, via the network of rivers the people used to travel via canoe. Detroit's founding—in its particular place and time—was very much driven by Indian politics. Our local highway follows an old Indian trail that goes all the way to Chicago.

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15feb2015

Happy belated Valentine's Day!

Yeah, I know a lot of people don't like Valentine's Day; and that's just fine. Also that this is dreadfully late, because I didn't start writing the post till the 15th, and it took me till the 18th to get it done (& will take till the 19th to get pushed over. But I've had this thing in the queue, nagging me for the last year & I'm determined to post this ancient object this year.

And I have a nice non-romantic valentine: a book recce!

My fiction reading has dropped off hugely in the past several years, because there just didn't seem to be all that many really good stories to my taste I'm too lazy/busy to find stuff I like, probably because if one has literary pretensions (even at my sub-basement level) then one is assumed to read well-written books with realistic and often not-very-nice people.

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1feb2015

Happy February, everyone! Here in the midwest we're having our first major snowstorm of the season, and I'm rather enjoying the 10 plus inches we're expected to receive. Of course, I don't have to drive anywhere in it, so there's that.

What I ought to be doing is working up samples for actual commissions (hi customers!) or at the very least, making art of some kind—guild challenges, painting with acrylics, etc—but since I'm not, I figured I could at least come up with a blog post. Not to mention some etsy listings! So here's a couple of sweet little heart-themed wall hangings. I'm featuring them now because Valentine's is coming up, but if you're not into rotating your house furnishings, they could certainly hang around (heh) year around. Both pieces are small, about 8x10.5 inches, with a warm tan and rich pink color scheme, for the very reasonable price of $25 each.

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31jan2015

Our local libraries annually pick books for the patrons to read, and then in February bring in the author (or somebody related) to talk about the book; along with reading groups in the like. This year's choice is a novel, which is kind of unusual, but it appealed to me because two of the protagonists were Japanese; plus, I like the idea of participating in a community reading program.

Most of the reviews focus on the 16 year old narrator, a Japanese girl who lived in the US long enough to feel very alienated when her folks move back to Japan after the dot-com crash; or her marvellous and delightful 104 year old great grandmother, Juku, a buddhist nun in Ruth Ozeki's For the Time Being. Compelling as their voices are I actually ended identifying with Ruth, who is more of a framing character, and her husband (who are indeed the author and her husband.)

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26jan2015

Went and saw Frederick Wiseman's National Gallery (at a theatre inside an art museum, how appropriate) but at three hours, this thing is way too long. I was able to sit through it, but my companion had to get up and physically stretch her legs; the patron in front of us left, perhaps half or two-thirds of the way through. Part of the problem is that it's really two films: one, the one I (as an artist) was interested in watching about the restoration, installation and other behind-the-scenes technical aspects of running the museum.

The other strand documented people's —curators, docents, assorted museum-goers, including lovers, students, the nearly blind and a lot of middle to elderly aged men—reactions to, and interactions with, the art. Acting as sort of a transition between these two components were the discussions and planning by upper echelon museum staff, with regard to it politics, planning, and finances.

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11jan2015

My favorite online/youtube mathematician, Vi Hart, has a cool new interactive program that shows how even slight preferences cause people to segregate themselves pretty readily. (via skepchick, I think...) The accompanying article explains, moreover, how strongly these patterns persist— unless you add a rule that participants actively desire to live with others unlike them.

The town I live in readily demonstrates this: it has five districts, and during the era after the Civil War & before WWI, its black population, then the highest percentage of any city in the state & originally pretty evenly distributed, was forced into one district by covenants, which I'm very sorry to say were enforced (at least informally) well into the 50s (and probably beyond, since an adjacent neighborhood still has members who call the cops on black guys silly enough to go door to door looking for odd jobs). A century later this pattern still persists, though I didn't learn the history until a year ago, despite having resided here well over a decade, and belonging to various historical groups for much of that time. The fact that our city is mixed overall was a plus for us, but owing to ignorance about this history, we inadvertently reinforced the old, bad, pattern.

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