Today, I was gonna accomplish Things! I was gonna see the old year off right by getting art done and packing done and working on repainting this old planter, and generally finishing the year off with a productive bang so that I went into 2004 feeling good about myself.

And instead I got a aura migraine–nothing really exciting for pain, but lotsa sparkly vision distortion, huge neon-herringbone flaw across the left eye, peripheral vision gone into pyrite fog–and spent a few solid hours laying in bed with the cat. But hey, them’s the breaks, and it’s mostly over now except for the occasional hazy bit. At least it was today, not tomorrow, when it might have been a Dire Omen of Things To Come.

And I did manage to get laundry done and my sculpture stuff packed–the first packing of the move!–and at least got the planter cleaned and the paint bought, and I’m lookin’ solid on finishing another Digger tonight, so it wasn’t a total loss, and tomorrow should be good. (I’m through the first week of Febuary for Digger strips, so I only need three or four more and I should be set for the move–I’ve been cranking out one every day and a half or so for the past week, despite James’s folks being in town, so that, at least, is under control.

Having been to about fifty galleries this past weekend–James’s mom’s a very good artist and wanted to visit ’em–I have a ramble percolating about my growing itch to do non-realism. And I think that’ll be a good rant to bring in the new year tomorrow, so we’ll see how it goes.

Happy New Year!

After eight months of balmy AZ temperatures, it finally dipped into–horrors!–the mid fifties–forcing me to drag out my faithful steel-toed boots instead of sandals.

Eight months of sandal wearing means that I now feel like I’ve got cinderblocks strapped to my ankles. I pick up a foot. Ungh. I set it down. Thunk. I feel absurdly taller, as if I’ve got those pimpin’ platform shoes with goldfish in the heels.

Meanwhile, in my husband’s hometown of Ashland, Oregon, a freak blizzard has stranded motorists all over the mountain, trapped in their cars by window-high snow, while rescue teams bring out food and water on snowmobiles.

Yeah, these Arizona winters are just gruelling…

You know, I think the net is becoming nicer.

A coupla times in recent memory, I have laid the verbal smack down on someone bein’ an idiot, hit the relevant buttons, and leaned back, anticipating either a good fight or (more usually) dead silence. This is one of my hobbies, and forms a vital part of my work-avoidance.

And instead, every so often, people keep apologizing to me and saying “No, you’re right, I’m sorry.”

And I don’t mean the little “No, sorry, overstated my case, apologize for any misunderstanding” kinda things that crop up in any forum, I mean the big unexpected ones like “You’re right, it was wrong of me to go off on a pro-life rant out of the blue and call you a raging sinful asshole, and I apologize–that was out of line. I respect your right to your belief, please forgive me,” and other such show-stoppers that leave you going “Whoa. Who kicked that foundation out from under the universe?”

I’m not complaining, mind you, and I hope that I, too, am usually able to apologize when I am (fairly frequently) out to lunch, but man. That just violates all my expectations of how the net works! I mean, usually it’s idiocy-smackdown-flame-flame-flame-flame-give-up/get bored. I understand that. That’s the way of the world!

Instead, people keep going idiocy-smackdown-apology and it’s completely thrown me off. This is so rare an event in the webverse that I NOTICE things like this, and I’ve hit some kind of rash of them!

I attempt to be gracious when accepting apologies in cases like this–the ability to apologize earns you big bonus points, because I used to think it was a dying art, and I feel strongly it should be acknowledged, and then the matter dropped completely out of courtesy–but honestly, I’m so floored that people are apologizing at all that I dunno how successful I am, grace not being my strong suit in any case. I may just be gibbering like a scientist who goes to check his mousetraps and discovers he’s caught a passenger pigeon.

Since I doubt highly that my smackdown skills are advanced enough to merit that sort of response, I must wonder–Is the net getting nicer? Did I just get a rash of luck, and soon reality will reassert normal function? Is it all a conspiracy to cripple my savage net survival skills and leave me floundering like an injured wildebeest at the virtual watering hole while the hyenas of debate move cackling in? Is it the alignment of the planets!?

Annnnyway, the person who accused me of stealing my own art, rightful embarrassed, apologized profusely if not grammatically. (And hell, it was worth it for the laugh, and hopefully they will check names before goin’ off in the future, so it’s all good. All’s well that ends well…)

Free speech means that you have the right to say whatever you want. And nobody can take that away.

It also means that I have the right to laugh at it. And nobody can take that away, either.

I am terribly tired of people brandishing the First Amendment and thinking that it means that their particular axe-to-grind must be taken absolutely seriously and accorded the same weight as anything else. And this is not the case. I cannot stop you from saying what you want, I would never dream of preventing you from saying what you want, I will defend to the death your right to say whatever you want. Everyone should be able to say what they want without fear of legal reprisal! It would be horrible to have the government squash you for your speech, all common-sense shouting-fire-in-crowded theatre analogies aside.

But there’s no force of god or man that can cause me to take you seriously if you’re an idiot. The First Amendment means that you don’t get shot for speaking your mind, it doesn’t mean that any of the rest of us have to believe you. Parade your beliefs all you want! You’re from the planet Zircon? Fabulous. You think that your pumpkin patch sings to you in the night? Wonderful. You think I’m a moron? Say it! More power to you! But just because you have the right to expression doesn’t mean anybody has to take your expression seriously. The First Amendment guarantees a lot of things–respect (beyond respecting your right to say any damnfool thing you want) ain’t one of them.

Whew. Had to get that off my chest. I feel better now. (Don’t bother trying to play the what-set-Ursula-off guessing game–I have that one on a hair-trigger, and it’s really not anybody’s fault. Much.)

The spurious accusations of art theft have gotten outta hand…

+————————————— –
| At Mon Dec 29 06:28:43 2003
| Streea
| ()
| IP#:67.250.111.66
| Referring to: ursula.html
| “Well your your art work is great im not saying anything
| agenst it but your not stating where you get it… I can
| tell you where most of your frog pics come from… Im sorry
| but most of that is not your own ideas it looks like you
| copied them… Yerf.Com dear… Sorry but your art is good
| anyway but you shoudl give credit to where you get it”

Yes. I did copy everything from that one artist at Yerf.com…that Ursula-Vernon chick. All of it! I can’t paint anything that she doesn’t paint first! In fact, if you look at her frogs on Yerf and my frogs on Elfwood, they’re absolutely identical!

But I’m pretty sure that she just copied that ursulav chick over at Deviantart.

Tuna Leather

So back when I first moved to Arizona, my folks got me a housewarming gift–this very cool piece of leather wall art, made of various types of–get this–fish leather. The main piece is tuna leather. And damn, it’s cool, and the leather is this wonderful pebbly stuff with a really neat texture–not scaly, per se, but sort’ve bumpy.

So I was at a swap meet with them Sunday, picking up some obligatory Arizona schlock–one cannot leave Arizona without a string of chile peppers! It’s unnatural!–and saw a place offering scrap leather and was poking through it–deer, cow, rabbit, rabbit dyed unnatural colors, etc. And I’ve been thinking of picking up some leather for mask making, but none of it was really jumping out at me, and anyway I’m not laying out a hundred bucks for an indigo calfskin hide just so it can lay in the closet for the next decade. And my father and I were talking about leather and masks, and the tuna leather came up, and he said, philosophically, “Well, you just can’t find that kinda stuff.”

Later on, on a whim, I checked on line, and yep–he’s right. You just can’t find that stuff. There are leather belts with embroidered tuna on them–god knows why–and leather keychains in the SHAPE of a tuna, but only one place in all the web that claimed to offer tuna leather, and they didn’t have a website, just a note saying “yeah, exotics, eelskin, marlin, tuna leather, call to place a wholesale order.”

Even Ebay, that bastion of weird commerce, turned up nothin’ on the tuna leather.

And this got me thinking. Not, mind you, that I really want tuna leather–it’s gotta be expensive, and I’d only destroy it with my half-assed attempts at sculpture–maybe in a few years. But what I want to know is–How the hell do you tan a FISH? I mean, I’ve seen a raw cowhide, and there’s stuff to work with there. I have not seen a tuna skin, but other than sharks, which tend to be pretty thick skinned little buggers, my impression of fish is that they’re pretty thin-skinned. There’s some scales, and then you’ve pretty much hit meat. Not a lot to work with. So how do they do it? Or are tuna thicker-skinned than the average goldfish?

James’s folks are in town, so we’re hangin’ out with them. And that’s cool. Yesterday we went to the botanical gardens, which were snazzy and cactusfilled, and I took a lot of photos.

Last night, as I was in the throes of sleep, James finally came to bed. “I dreamed about plants,” I told him groggily. “Were they Irish?” he asked. (We had Irish food for dinner.) “Nah,” I said, still most of the way asleep, “but even the jackrabbits had thorns.”

There was a pause. James said “Wow.” I woke up a bit more, tried to remember what the hell I’d been dreaming about to inspire such a bizarre phrase, lost it completely, and staggered out to the computer long enough to scrawl that down on a post-it note.

It’d make an interesting painting.

More thing that fascinate me…

Show today on NPR on smallpox, historically. They’re describing a woman–Lady Mary–who went to Turkey in the–I wanna say late 1700’s, but I could be wrong–and discovered a proto-vaccine for smallpox there, being practiced largely by Greek and Cyprean women.

As vaccines go, this was pretty crude (and icky!)–dip needles into “ripe” smallpox sores, and stick these pus-dipped needles into a small incision on the arm of the person to be innoculated, then cover the sore up with a nutshell and pray. Within a week, if all went well, you get a very very mild case of smallpox, with lesions that don’t leave scars, low-grade fever only, and then you’re immune for the rest of your life.

Icky, yes. However, the point to be stressed is that this was the first real vaccine, even as crude and nasty as it was–and nobody’ll ever know who invented it, or how. It was practiced largely by women (ostenibly in fear of the ugly scars of smallpox as much as the 1-in-3 mortality rate, although I submit that this is the worst sort of nonsense) and was considered primitive oriental superstition by the intelligensia at the time. These were illiterate women–they left no writings, if they had an oral tradition it’s completely lost, and we’d never have heard of this at all if not for this French woman who happened to be in Turkey and had a personal interest in smallpox (having survived it herself.) Nobody who was anybody thought it actually worked, and it was only decades later that the scientist Edward Jenner created the modern smallpox vaccine, made of cowpox and, like all scientists, building on the research of those before him.

So we’ll never know who really invented the smallpox vaccine in its first form. It was probably a woman, given the cultural spread, who somehow, in the absence of even the faintest theory of germs, figured out that old smallpox sores were the key. Unsung genius? Maybe. Crazy dumb luck and serendipity? Most likely–luck lies behind many great scientific advances. Still, someone had to observe what happened and draw a connection.

History is full of weird little stories that we’ll never know the answers to. But hey, it keeps the historical fiction writers in business.