30 July 2015

[liff] This Is The Week That Is, Oregon, The 4th Week of July 2015

After seeing the news and still enduring the weather this week in lower south Cascadia, this is all I can see; this is us, in a nutshell:

Now, how do we get out of this nutshell?

28 July 2015

[bloggage] Hallo, EU! Cookies Ahoy!

Today, when logging in here, I was blessed with a small orange bugle horn next to the "Overview" tab of my Blogger dashboard. This does not happen often.

Going to the dashboard, I'm presented with a notice that according to laws in the European Union, Blogger blogs have to display a notice that cookies are being used and give the end-loader a chance to acknowledge this. Since you're not in the EU if you're in America (though some would probably suggest otherwise), and Blogger insists that it's your (that's you, Mr or Ms Blogger, of Anytown, USA) responsibility to ensure the banner shows, you have to pretend you're not from here to see it.

Gladly, this is not a hard thing to do. If you have a Blogger blog and you don't have a custom domain, your blog's url ends in blogspot.com. To view it like a tourist, just change the url ending to an appropriate form. Instead of zehnkatzen.blogspot.com, for instance, I tried zehnkatzen.blogspot.co.uk and zehnkatzen.blogspot.fr. Easy as that.

When I did this, I got this big banner:

Clicking the Got it button caused it to shrink, thusly:

… and clicking the Got it button again caused it to disappear entirely, revealing the search bar. Back to normal.

Anyone reading this and who has a Blogger blog probably has seen the notice on their dashboard and all the links you need to make sense of this are thereupon. But, in the spirit of community, heads up.

[cats] Goodbye To Bet-Dog

We lost a friend of longstanding yesterday.

This photo was taken in 2004. The gray cat, "Keeeton", by name, passed away not too long after that. He is still missed.

Photo taken in 2004. For context, check out thisblast from the past.

That suave, debonair, handsome tuxie next to him we called "Bet-dog". Most of the time, we just called him "Dog". He was named after the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and was usually spelt without the 'h' so that people wouldn't call him "Beth". The '-dog' append kind of accidentally happened … he was doglike in loyalty, anyway. Affable. Damnably handsome, 'just another pretty face', we teased him.

He didn't notice our mockery. He knew he was badass.

Keeeton adopted him as BFF after he grew past kitten stage, and passed me on to Bet (Keeeton was my cat-BFF) when he passed on. And over 10 years, since, he grew to be quite the character. As he ascended into age, the Venerable Bet slowed down ever so imperceptibly. Two years ago, we found he was getting very scrawny indeed; the doctor said he was hyperthyroidal. We gave him Methimazole, 1/2 a small tablet 2x daily, and he put on a great deal of that weight. But over the past two years, he grew increasingly blind due to cataracts and rather confused.

Yesterday, after becoming ever more quiescent and weak, and losing all interest in food and even water, we all made the hard decision to do the compassionate thing. Born Portland, Oregon, Yom Kippur 1997, died, Portland, Oregon, July 2015 … aged 18 years, 9 months, and 5 days.

Make your furball an inside furball, and they'll always be happy, and be happy with you for longer … but, ah, life, I digress.

And as the vet … a Dr. Brian Behrends, Montavilla Animal Clinic, a soft and gentle a prince of a man as ever was born to care for an animal, and someone I'll not hear a sour word said about, carried the now-at-peace cat away and out of the exam room for the last time, he did a thing I shall never forget … he gave the cat's body an affectionate cuddle, and kissed him most tenderly on the head.

One of the greatest goddamn cats ever. 

06 July 2015

[SF] The Sad Puppies May Have A Point

ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: The Sad Puppy news roundup at File 770 has linked to this blog. http://file770.com/?p=23595.

One of the most juvenile, at least to me, of the Sad Puppies' plaints about the trend of modern SF (you can fill in speculative fiction or science fiction, as is your wont) is elaborated by this point made by one of the leading opiners of the movement, Brad Torgerson:
That’s what’s happened to Science Fiction & Fantasy literature. A few decades ago, if you saw a lovely spaceship on a book cover, with a gorgeous planet in the background, you could be pretty sure you were going to get a rousing space adventure featuring starships and distant, amazing worlds. If you saw a barbarian swinging an axe? You were going to get a rousing fantasy epic with broad-chested heroes who slay monsters, and run off with beautiful women. Battle-armored interstellar jump troops shooting up alien invaders? Yup. A gritty military SF war story, where the humans defeat the odds and save the Earth. And so on, and so forth.
These days, you can’t be sure.
The book has a spaceship on the cover, but is it really going to be a story about space exploration and pioneering derring-do? Or is the story merely about racial prejudice and exploitation, with interplanetary or interstellar trappings?
And then it occurred to me that one of the cornerstones of this insurgency is apparently the right to judge a book by its cover. This is something that I was told never to do, that it was the sign of shallowness and unwarranted prejudice.

But then, I thought, what if there was a point to made here? Maybe I just work too hard at wanting an experience here. I mean, if I, as a consumer, should want to be guided with pretty shiny images, then who am I to complain? They do me a service, after all, in truth-in-labeling (as a liberal, I'm supposed to like that).

So, truth-in-labeling. Okay. We'll go with that. I hold in my hand a Berkeley 1981 re-release of one of my favorite novels, written by an acknowledged master of the form, one who went on to create iconic works of SF that inform the genre to this day. But, book-by-its-cover now … okay, I see an organically-formed, liquid, almost-melting edifice on a horizon under a hot yellow sky, and that edifice appears to be a building … after all, there's something that looks like a tiny figure standing in one of the openings (is it a window). On the whole, it looks like something Frank Gehry came up with in a fever dream.

In the sky, an eye orbits. Setting or rising, I can't tell, but there it is. to the right of the building, a small thing resembling a misconceived volcano seems to launching a weather balloon, or maybe Rover from The Prisoner. It's all on a purple plain resembling fused glass, with two rocks resembling rocketships in the foreground, and in the extreme foreground it appears that some poor soul has died, being embedded in the fused glass of the plain.

Needless to say, I expected a tripping-balls adventure about a science-fictional acid trip, but what did I actually get? Some lame story about an alternate past where the Japanese and Germans won WWII and divided up America between them.

Oh, by the way, here's the book:

And, to fit the Sad Puppy profile of undeserving novels, it won the Hugo.

In 1962.

Clearly, this conspiracy has gone on way longer than any of us imaginers could have possibly imagined. Wake up, sheeple!

And so it goes.

[photo] Gaiety Hill Alley, Salem, Oregon, February 2008

Just a moment in time that caught my eye:

This was taken in February 2008, and is of an alley in the Gaiety Hill section of Salem. That's the hill that the Civic Center is built onto the north side of, overlooking downtown from the south. Commerical, Liberty, High, and Church streets run over it; east to west you have Oak Street and Leslie Street.

When I was growing up in Salem, most of us didn't know that knoll even had a name, really. But it's a nice area (doubtless with mortgages to match). And this alley was always the kind of residential back alley that I've loved. The kind of urban interstice that radiates ineffable hominess and comfort.

Most likely this is an alley running between High and Church, just north of Mission … if memory serves me correctly.

That moisture on the ground? That's what we used to have around here called rain. Oregon used to be famous for having too much of it. We sure solved that problem though.

05 July 2015

[pdx_art] Bwana Spoons at Muse Art & Design, May, 2015

I have been unfairly keeping this to myself. Bad on me.

Muse Art and Design, the splendid art and inspiration supply store at SE 42nd and Hawthorne, has been holding the occasional demo and seminar. And they get better and better. The one back in February stays in my memory banks, and the one I've dithered on reporting on, this one, in May, was simply fun.

Bwana Spoons, Muse Art and Design, May, 2015.
The bespectacled man in the picture above should need no introduction if you exist in any of the intersections of art and illustration worlds currently percolating around the Portland area, but if you do, this is Bwana Spoons, and he produces trippy illustrations, but he works in chaos.

But more on that anon. The subject of this visit was the release of a line of acrylic gouaches, Acryla Gouache. This, a line of utter vibrancy by Holbein, was something of a revelation. I hadn't imagined that gouache could be anything but a watercolor, but here it was, a gouache created of acrylic … a resin color.

The wet consistency is lovely, thick, rich, creamy, creamier even than water-based gouache. The colors are memorable, and, amusingly, the assembled salon was going in big on a color called Opera, a brilliant pink-orange that is to your eyes what strong citrus is to your mouth.

I make no judgements by saying this; oversaturating your color response just might be the object you're going for. I found a cosmic humor in the way such a color was getting such an overwhelming, gut-level response.

The event was intended to demonstrate the color, and demonstrate it did. But it was also given over to a sense of pleasantly-chaotic play where people just dabbled with mixing the colors or came up with chaotically-inspired pieces. My favorite amongst the group is possibly this one, done by Peter, who runs the place. It started out as clouds and an abstract sun-not-sun in the sky … but it evolved into the most delightful flying snail I've ever seen, riding the air on a trail of fabulous:

You know not where it goes, all you need knowis that Rainbow Flying Snail wants you to be
Me and The Wife™ of course, had some fun. I was a little dry on inspiration today so we got Supernatural Orange Cat and Red Superhero. Wife did Rainbow with Shazam Outline. It was fun.

But, as to Bwana Spoons and chaos? Let me put it this way. We all fancy we can take a few disconnected strokes, pencil marks, what-have-you, and evolve something interesting out of them. Bwana started playing in his sketchbook with just a big, serpentine wave of color. Little-by-little, a detail there, an extension there, an overpaint in another place, and the fabric of that painted space began to take on depth and meaning, as though it was evolving itself through him. 

Skill, he has. I was watching the changer changing the changed and the changed changing the changer, though. It was something on a higher level. And this …

… is the utterly amazing (and maybe a little disturbing) result. The original fat squiggle is on the verso side of the spread and, like a sort of strand of DNA, it gave birth to the rest. And the real reward for the viewer is that it looks so accomplished. That's the true polish of skill. 

Bwana Spoons' website is: http://www.bwanaspoons.com/
Muse Art & Design is, of course, http://museartanddesign.com