Sunday, August 28, 2022

On violence in the media.

Apparently I've been inadvertently assigned to the George R.R. Martin beat. Earlier this year, I blogged about his appearance at the inaugural Santa Fe Literary Festival. This weekend, I attended Bubonicon, a science fiction and fantasy convention in Albuquerque, where Martin was given an 80-minute slot for connecting with his fans. A lot of authors will use such time slots to do a reading of their work, particularly if they have a new book out or one is coming out shortly. Eighty minutes is super generous -- usually an author gets maybe a half-hour or an hour. Only one other author got that much one-on-one time this year: Stephen R. Donaldson, who is my all-time favorite fantasy author. Donaldson did a reading from The Killing God, the final book in The Great God's War trilogy that will be out this fall, and answered questions. Of course, I very much enjoyed it.

Martin did neither of those things. He hasn't had a new book out in several years, although he assured us that he's continuing to work on The Winds of Winter, the long-awaited sixth novel in the series on which the TV show Game of Thrones is based. And he didn't take questions (probably because a lot of the questions would have been about The Winds of Winter). Instead, he spent a few minutes bringing us up-to-date on his various TV and film projects, including House of the Dragon, a GoT prequel that has just begun airing on HBO, and he mentioned that he'd caught COVID and had to skip the premiere as well as some other promotional events because he was quarantining. Then he spent the rest of the time talking about violence.

Andrew Martin | Pixabay

He started off talking about how violence was portrayed on TV in the '50s and '60s, when he was a kid. In kiddie Westerns, the gunfight always ended with the hero shooting the gun out of the bad guy's hand, a trick shot that in real life would be unlikely at best. In prime-time Westerns, the hero shoots the bad guy once and, bloodlessly, he falls down dead -- which never happens in real life.

From there, he went on to his early career in TV writing, which included the show Beauty and the Beast. I admit that I was a fan of the show, and had in fact blocked out any memory of the final season, when Laura Hamilton quit (Martin didn't say why she left; Wikipedia says she was pregnant). Martin told us the censors gave them a hard time -- Vincent (played by Ron Perlman) was a noble lion-man who went berserk when angry, but the censors wouldn't let him tear anyone apart. So he was only allowed to throw bad guys across the room. (I'm tempted to find out if the show is streaming somewhere to rewatch it and see if that looks as goofy as it sounds.)

Anyway, it's quite a jump from Vincent growling and tossing bad guys around to the red wedding in GoT. Decades passed between them. And besides, you can get a lot more of everything on cable -- more sex, more drugs, more cursing, and more violence.

Martin acknowleged that he's gotten a lot of flak for the violence in GoT. And he knows there have been studies about how many violent scenes kids view these days. But he reasons it this way: If you want to watch what he calls comfort TV, which contains nothing that disturbs you, that's a valid choice. And it's a valid choice for content producers who only want to make comfort TV. But he says if you're going to choose to include violence, it needs to be realistic -- not the bloodless Old West shootings of the '50s and '60s.

I have Opinions.

I haven't watched GoT -- or rather, I watched the first episode and never went back. The degrading sex scenes grossed me out, but the thing that really did it for me was when Jamie Lannister nonchalantly pushed little Bran off a wall a couple of stories off the ground. I'd read all the Song of Ice and Fire books and I knew it was coming, but seeing it was too visceral for me. And because I'd read the books, I knew it would only get worse. So I bailed.

I'm not trying to be a paragon of virtue or a snob, mind you -- I'm only speaking for myself and my own taste. There are so many movies and TV shows that are supposed to be great that I haven't watched. Taxi Driver. The Sopranos. Breaking Bad. Graphic sex and violence just don't interest me. And I don't think either one is necessary to tell an intriguing, complex story.

This kind of reminds me of the time years ago when we began to discover that entertainment stars had feet of clay. Back in the heyday of the movies, the big studios had publicity departments that were in charge of the stars' images. They'd encourage the idea that a starlet and a leading man were dating, for instance, or quash any rumors about an actor's drinking or sexuality. When the publicity machines went by the wayside in the '60s, we began to learn that our favorite actors and musicians got drunk, got high, and did all sorts of scandalous stuff. The entertainers always say they're entitled to live their lives however they want. They aren't up there to be a role model for anybody. They certainly aren't responsible for teenagers who try to walk on the wild side -- that's the parents' job.

To be clear, Martin didn't explicitly say he had a right to produce anything he wants, the opinion of society be damned. But he didn't really address it, either; he mentioned the abundance of violent programming available for people to watch today and just kind of shook his head. Never mind that numerous studies have shown that viewing violent media content can increase aggressiveness in both children and adults and desensitize viewers to violence.

I'm not saying Martin should dial it back; he's free to make whatever programming he likes. But in a society where gun violence was the leading cause of death for children in 2018, maybe a little less realism on TV wouldn't be a bad thing.


These moments of visceral blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Yarn to dye for.

"So what have you been up to lately, Lynne, since you haven't been writing?"

Welp, y'all know about the cataract surgery. Then a few weeks ago, I racked up my knee by stepping up onto a curb (urgent care took an x-ray and said it wasn't broken -- yeah, thanks, I could have told you that); I have an MRI scheduled for the end of this week, but my money's on a sprained ligament, given that it's much better now.

And the element of Water keeps springing up. It's still monsoon season and we're getting a lot of rain -- yesterday was an all-day soaker. Then a couple of nights ago, I walked into the office/craft room and discovered water gushing from the ceiling in two places. Something had gone wonky in the bathroom of the unit upstairs. The plumbers had to cut a big hole in my ceiling to find the leak and fix it; they'll be back later this week to patch the drywall.

Today, though, I spent the day playing with water of a different, and way more fun, sort: yarn dyes. I was part of a class being trained at the dye shed at El Rancho de las Golondrinas, the living history museum here in Santa Fe where I've been volunteering this summer. 

The yarn I got to take home. Lynne Cantwell | 2022
The museum doesn't run the dye shed all the time -- only for certain festivals -- so it was a treat to get to work out there today. Just like the rest of the ranch, it's pretty rustic. 
Lynne Cantwell | 2022
We have a number of big pots for the dye, a hearth that fits maybe three big pots, and a cast iron cauldron for a fourth color. Today, we worked with indigo, which makes a deep blue; osage orange, which makes a bright yellow; cochineal, which usually makes a brilliant red, but today we turned out pretty pinks; and in the iron pot, snakeweed, which usually makes yellow, but it reacted with the iron to make a sage green.

How did we get the other colors in my photo above? Overdyeing. You put your yarn in one pot of color, then in one of a different color. For example, the turquoise on the left was dyed yellow first, then overdyed with indigo. The terra cotta colored skeins in the middle were dyed yellow first, then overdyed with our pink cochineal. The teal on the right was a gray heathered yarn (the rest were all white to start with); I put it in the green, then overdyed it with indigo.

Basically, you don't know what you're going to get until to give it a try, which is what makes it so much fun. And if you hate the color you get, you can overdye it and make it a different color. 

After the yarn is dyed, it's hung up to dry. Then it's rinsed to get any excess dye out and hung up to dry again. There was a class yesterday, too (in the rain, those hardy souls). Here's what our two classes combined did this weekend: 

Lynne Cantwell | 2022
We'll use the lighter weight yarn for colcha embroidery and the heavier weight for weaving rugs and things.

There's a lot more to the process, of course, and you can fall down quite the rabbit hole while learning all this stuff. Why, just now, I thought I might add some info here about mordants; I quickly realized the subject could be a reference book, and one I'm not yet qualified to write. So for now, I'm going to wrap up this post. Then I'm going to sit back, relax, and think about something less complicated -- like what I'll do with my new hand-dyed yarn.


These moments of colorful blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed and boosted!

Sunday, August 14, 2022

What does it all mean, animal kingdom edition.

I'm taking a break from the news this week about FBI raids, attacks on authors, and all that serious stuff to talk about...birds and bugs. You're welcome.


Amongst Pagans (and New Agey folks), there's sort of a parlor game in which, when you see an animal or insect that you've never seen before, or that you haven't seen in a while, you wonder what it means. A couple of authors have written dictionaries or guides explaining what such sightings might mean to you. Steven Farmer wrote Animal Spirit Guides, first published in 2006; Ted Andrews wrote two books on the subject: Animal Speak, first published in 1993, and Animal-Wise, first published in 2004. Both authors have various ancillary items and volumes for their work (for example, Farmer's has an oracle deck; Andrews has a pocket-sized edition of Animal Speak). Both authors give advice on how to tell if a particular animal (or bird, fish, reptile, or insect) is your totem animal, there to guide you along your path and whose most important qualities you should practice in your own life. But it's also possible that the animal (etc.) has shown up with a special message for you.

Take the hummingbird, for example. I have a feeder on my porch, and I've been seeing a number of these little guys. Here's my best photo. I think it's a female black-chinned hummer. 

Lynne Cantwell | 2022
I don't have a copy of Farmer's book, but I do have both of Andrews's books. His entry for the hummingbird covers a lot of ground that many folks already know: they fly fast and can even fly backwards, they may eat 50 or 60 meals a day (mostly nectar, from flowers and feeders, although some eat bugs), and the migration routes that some species follow are thousands of miles long. But then he takes it personal: their flight "reminds us that if we truly enjoy what we're doing, we become light as a feather, and life is rich with nectar." He says their migratory routes make them "a symbol for that which seems impossible."

Here's another example. While Amy and I were at a spa today, a grasshopper hopped up onto the side of our hot tub, then jumped onto a wooden slat next to the tub. 

Amy Milyko | 2022
Grasshoppers, as most of us know, have an amazing ability to leap away from danger and into better situations. They have tympanic organs on their front legs that allow them to sense which direction a sound is coming from, and that helps them make decisions about which way to go. The message, Andrews says, is to "take a chance; take a leap forward."

Then a couple of days ago on the porch, I spotted this tiny drama: an ant, carrying a dead bee. (The photo's not great, but trust me: The ant is on the wall above the bee and has hold of the bee's wing, and the bee is definitely dead.)

Lynne Cantwell | 2022
Ants, Andrews says, are "the promise of success through effort." In this case, the meaning could also involve teamwork; right after I took this photo, another ant showed up and began helping the first ant carry off the bee carcass.

The biggest trick in any of these situations is to not read too much into what you're seeing. The hummingbird, for example: I put the feeder out there with the intention of attracting them (mainly to entertain Tigs, to be honest). So the fact that hummers are showing up at the feeder regularly is kind of a given. The hummers are doing what hummers do. No message there.

The ants-and-bee drama is also likely a case of critters doing regular critter things. I was surprised to see the ant lugging the bee, but Mama Google tells me that ants feed on dead organic matter, including other insects. So those guys were taking a feast back to their colony.

That grasshopper, though. Amy saw it first, and she has a job interview tomorrow, so I'm taking it as a sign that applying for this job was a good idea and that the interview will go well.

On the other hand, we also saw this today: One of a group of young women spilled some sort of coffee drink into a pool where they were all sitting and chatting. After they moved on, a wasp was attracted to the spill and ended up drowning itself in the pool. Andrews talks about the wasp representing "dreams fulfilled through practical efforts" -- but if I were to take any message from this poor critter's fate, it would be to be careful about what you're attracted to.


These moments of observant blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed and boosted!

Sunday, August 7, 2022

A much clearer view.


Lynne Cantwell 2022
So the cataract surgery -- for both eyes -- is in the rear-view mirror. And as you can see from the photo above, which approximates the post-surgery view from my right eye, it went pretty darned fabulously well.

I had a fair amount of anxiety about the procedure ahead of time, given that somebody was going to be, y'know, cutting open my eye. But when I asked friends who'd been through it what to expect, they mostly just said, "You'll love it!" Which didn't really answer my questions. So I thought I'd write a post about my experience while it's all still fresh in my mind, so that I can refer other folks to it later.

I had my surgeries pretty close together -- July 20th for the right (worst) eye and July 25th for the left eye. Usually the procedures are scheduled at least two weeks apart, but my original surgeon ended up needing surgery and so I was rescheduled with a different surgeon whose calendar then had to be worked around. The shorter time frame between eyes didn't seem to make a difference.

The information sheet I received before the first surgery said, in part, "You will be able to see out of the operative eye during the first 1-2 weeks of healing, but your vision may be blurred throughout this period of adjustment." I'll be able to "see", huh? What, specifically, does that mean? Well, here's what it meant for me: 

At the post-op appointment the day after the first surgery, I had 20/50 vision in my right eye. Everything was brighter; I felt a little like I was in one of those old laundry soap ads where your whites are whiter and your colors are brighter. Best of all, the cataract that had been clouding my vision was gone, so I could see things at a distance with startling clarity. And I had my depth perception back, which was really nice.

They took the right lens out of my old glasses, so I kept wearing them -- and I kept relying on the reading-glasses part of my bifocal lens for close-up vision. Here's a thing that is probably obvious to opthalmologists but wasn't to me: our brains are remarkably adept at relying on one eye when the vision in the other eye goes screwy. I had basically been relying on my left eye for months, and that continued to be the case after the first surgery.

Then I had the second surgery, which also went well. At the post-op appointment on the day after the second surgery, I had 20/40 vision in the left eye and almost 20/15 vision in the right eye. I was cleared to drive -- yay! 

Here is the annoying part, though: I am constantly switching glasses back and forth. I bought a couple of pairs of reading glasses before the second surgery, and I find myself wearing them around the house, so my vision is still blurry a lot of the time -- it's just that now it's my fault. Also, I really miss my photogrey (a.k.a. Transition) lenses, which I've worn for the past several decades. I'm required to wear sunglasses outside post-surgery for about four weeks total, so I still need glasses to drive -- it's just that they're sunglasses. Plus any time I need to see a price tag or a menu, I need to swap the sunglasses for reading glasses, or put the sunglasses over the reading glasses, and keep track of them all, and well. It's annoying, that's all. 

The final thing the info sheet warned about: "After your eye heals, you may need to wear glasses for your best vision." The vast majority of folks will need reading glasses -- your original lenses probably didn't focus close-up as well as they did when you were a kid, but the new equipment doesn't change focus at all. And for those of us with astigmatism, the new lenses may not compensate for it. Replacement lenses for astigmatism do exist, but my insurance wouldn't pay for them. So for my best vision, I will need to wear glasses.

But that's actually good news! Because once I have my final appointment in a couple of weeks, I can get a new pair of bifocals with photogrey lenses. I'll be able to ditch the sunglasses and reading glasses, and go back to having one pair of glasses that rules them all. 

And unless something goes really screwy with my vision later on, I'll never need a different prescription for glasses again. Now that's something to look forward to.

These moments of bloggy clarity have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed and boosted!