Amanda’s Facebook Photography Page is Up!

My friend and photographer Amanda Reese created a Facebook page – if you love pretty pictures, go show her some love!

Image is a selfie of Amanda, who has a beautiful bird painted on her face.
Amanda Reese. Image courtesy Amanda Reese.

While you’re there, feel free to demand endless pictures of her adorable tiny new kitten, Chipper.

Image shows me holding a tiny, long-haired black kitten who is getting ready to lick my nose.
Chipper likes noses. Image courtesy Starspider, kitten courtesy Amanda Reese.

There’s never enough kitten!

Image shows Chipper standing on B's shoulder.
She also likes climbing people. Image courtesy Starspider.

There will be some geology later this summer, too – I’m going to take Amanda to photograph the hell out of some prime examples. Although if I go over to her place to pick her up, we may get sucked into a kitten black hole… you’d forgive us if we brought you lots of kitten instead, right?

Amanda’s Facebook Photography Page is Up!

The Outstanding Imagery of Amanda Reese

Originally published at Scientific American.

You want some Yellowstone? You got some Yellowstone! Amanda Reese is one of my most talented friends, and she’s just got her photography website up. After I did a lot of squeeing and awing and OMGing, she graciously agreed to let me filch a few of her images to show you. Because supervolcano. Love it!

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, WY, June 2013. Photo copyright Amanda Reese, used with permission. All rights reserved. Image shows a ridge behind Grand Prismatic Spring. Part of the spring, bright orange, is visible in the foreground. Steam is rising between the spring and the ridge.
Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, WY, June 2013. Photo copyright Amanda Reese, used with permission. All rights reserved.

Continue reading “The Outstanding Imagery of Amanda Reese”

The Outstanding Imagery of Amanda Reese

Moon Art Madness

Gotta love the Moon, right? Big ol’ lighty-uppy thing makes the nights all pretty, has got lots of rocks on. Lovely. And with modern cameras and software, you can create moon art with the press of a few buttons.

I play with photo editing programs sometimes just to see what happens. Continue reading “Moon Art Madness”

Moon Art Madness

The Art of Nature: Dandelion Blooms

We’ve got a love-hate relationship with dandelions, don’t we? If you’ve ever owned a lawn or been around a lawn-owner who gives a shit about grass, you’ve either personally attempted or seen someone attempt to eradicate the no-good very-bad terrible dandelions in it. The circular sprays of leaves seem like particularly wicked saw-blades. Grass-murderer! Lawn defiler! Diiiieeee!!!!

But when they bloom, they’re pretty. You may hate them, but you know they are. They’re beautiful. And who as a little kid in an area with dandelions hasn’t plucked up little sun-hued and sun-shaped blooms and run off with them? Who hasn’t wondered if they have anything to do with actual lions? Who hasn’t breathlessly waited for them to form those perfect spheres of white fluff that we could carefully pick and then blow on with all our might, trying to scatter the seeds with one blow and ensuring the lawn owner will spend next summer tearing their hair out over yet more dandelions?

Yes. It’s a complicated relationship. Continue reading “The Art of Nature: Dandelion Blooms”

The Art of Nature: Dandelion Blooms

The Art of Nature, Iguana Edition

Sometimes, you see a photo featured somewhere and you know you must share it with your friends and readers.

Iguana at Butterfly World, Stellenbosch, Western Cape Province, South Africa. Photo and caption courtesy Leo za1 / © Rute Martins of Leoa's Photography / CC-BY-SA-3.0.
Iguana at Butterfly World, Stellenbosch, Western Cape Province, South Africa. Photo and caption courtesy Leo za1 / © Rute Martins of Leoa’s Photography / CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Isn’t that wonderful? I look at that face and see an ode to evolution right there – a symphony of natural processes and natural history.It reminds me of what RQ said on our most recent installment of Friday Freethought:

Because something that assembles itself is so much cooler than something built – a painting by an artist can be wonderful and impressive, but you’ll always know that someone took the time to learn to paint, put the colours together, think of the design, etc. But imagine a painting that comes to be on its own – through random processes! How impressive would that be? Like the crystallization of water into snowflakes. Or the Mandelbrot leaves on that plant last week. Or the way cold fronts and warm fronts can combine to make a giant, organized hurricane. So much more awesome than just saying, [entity] did it. To me, anyways…

I’ve seen nature paint. I’ve seen it paint in space, where stars are born and where they die. I’ve seen it paint on still water on sunny days. Continue reading “The Art of Nature, Iguana Edition”

The Art of Nature, Iguana Edition

Saturday Song: Butterfly Lovers

Okay, so this is the most magnificent thing I’ve ever seen human beings do. Well, do while dancing, anyway. I mean, she’s standing en pointe on this dude’s head, and – just watch.

Words. I haven’t any. I just. That’s simply. Mwah.

You know what, that’s art. That’s pure bloody art right there, and it’s one of the reasons why I don’t give up on humanity in despair (you, my darlings, and my fellow Freethought Bloggers, plus the other folks out there doing magnificent work making this world better and more beautiful every day, are the other reasons). All right? It’s moments like these that just make me sit back with my jaw flapping gently in the fully unhinged position and my eyes popping out and my poor little tempted-to-be-misanthropic heart welling, and I burst out with a robust, “I bloody love people!” when I’m capable of drawing breath again.

I rather imagine this is what it’s like running about the universe with the Doctor, actually. Continue reading “Saturday Song: Butterfly Lovers”

Saturday Song: Butterfly Lovers

Something Beautiful, Something Blue: Seattle from Alkai

I love my adopted city. I’ve never been much of a big-city person, and I’d frankly rather be out in the mostly wild spaces most of the time, but I’ve always adored Seattle. I find her beautiful from most every angle. I love wandering round downtown, rambling among the hills and the shops and the art and architecture. I love her culture, and her old buildings, and her waterfronts. The only thing I don’t like is driving there, but even that isn’t horrible. Merely awful. Best to take the bus and a comfortable pair of shoes, and make a day of it.

"Something Beautiful, Something Blue." Seattle from Alki, view across the Sound with a spray of water over the Space Needle.
“Something Beautiful, Something Blue.” Seattle from Alki, view across the Sound with a spray of water over the Space Needle.

I love her skyline. I took this image from Alki Point one summer. There’s a strip of beach with excellent views toward the city center, and a set of concrete stairs, and waves that splash dramatically against said stairs, and give a photographer a chance at a little artistry. I like how, after a bit of mucking about with contrast and saturation, it ended up looking a bit like a watercolor.

My fair city isn’t without her faults, though. In fact, we’re pretty much standing on one here, and one day I shall tell you about it, once we’re done with all this volcano nonsense.

Something Beautiful, Something Blue: Seattle from Alkai

Supercrow and Other Natural Art Stories

Sorry for bugging out on you, my darlings. The sun came out in midwinter in Seattle. Then there was The Hobbit. And basking in the sun with the cat. And then filtered sunlight, but still more than adequate for wandering about photographing interesting ice. Then more basking in the sun with the cat, this time with the cat atop me, and an inordinate amount of photo editing on a rather excessive number of photos. Excuses, excuses – but you may enjoy the results.

I found a new bit of North Creek I’ve not been to yet. It’s tucked behind a business park, and it’s remarkably lovely, filled with birds and assorted wildlife, wonderful examples of waterways, and some fabulous ice. I’ve now folders full of delights, which I shall parcel out as time goes on. Continue reading “Supercrow and Other Natural Art Stories”

Supercrow and Other Natural Art Stories

Beauties, Beasts, and a Lesson Most of Us Don’t Want To Learn

This is a good read, an important read, and I’d like you to read it all. Gyzym is gentle but firm in explaining why movies like Beauty and the Beast can be jarring for those who didn’t realize that the fairy tale is actually a classic domestic violence scenario.

That’s important to face. And for those who would rather not face it:

We can argue for media that doesn’t push the horrible shit we need to unlearn as a society to get to a healthier place, or we can point out the flaws in our preexisting media, or we can do both. But “Just shut up,” isn’t an option. “Just shut up,” can’t be an option, because we can’t keep playing the “Nobody told me because nobody told them,” card. Nothing will ever get better that way. Nothing will ever improve if we keep not telling people this shit.

People not shutting up and speaking hard truths to hear may have caused me some discomfort and made a few favorite films, songs and books impossible to enjoy without acknowledging their deep flaws, but those folks who said “No, I won’t shut up” and continued to speak the hard truths made me a better human being. When I get back to fiction, they’ll have made me a better writer telling better stories. And they’ve made me unwilling to shut up my own self, which may not be the popular thing, but is a necessary thing, so fuck if I’ll stop. Even if I end up with kids (not necessarily my own, mind you). Even if they groan and grump and implore me to STFU during their show. Like George Wiman said when he posted this link, this is “Why it’s important to do MST3K with your kids when you watch movies.” Because while there’s such a thing as willing suspension of disbelief, we need to be trained that suspending disbelief should be a conscious act, and revocable upon return to the real world.

Fiction is useless except as a panacea if we can’t use it to compare and contrast with our real-world lives, if we can’t use it to throw our conditions and relationships and societies into starker contrast, if it can’t help us think. Escapism is lovely, and I love engaging in it. We all do. But we need to be conscious what we’re escaping from, and escaping in to, and watch out that we don’t allow our lovely bit of escapism to subtly normalize very problematic things*. Performing the occasional MST3K exercise on movies we enjoy is good practice for recognizing problem patterns in life. It’s necessary for separating fiction from fact.
And for those who want to cry, “But it’s art! You don’t need to take it so seriously!!” I have just one thing to say: art was never advanced by people passively enjoying the status quo. “Just shut up” isn’t an option for life, but it isn’t an option for art, either. If you truly love art, you will give it no quarter.**

We can do better.

The Beast with a rose. Image courtesy Nieve44/Luz on Flickr.
The Beast with a rose. Art with a problematic message can still be loved and appreciated as art. It can help us navigate the complexities of our world. But only if we’re willing to engage it. Image courtesy Nieve44/Luz on Flickr.

*Read this link. I mean it. Miriam hadn’t even written it when I wrote this piece, but it’s like she’d read my mind and knew I had this post sitting in drafts, and wrote it for the line I inserted it in to, and it says much of what I intended to say, and more.

**Nothing in the above should be construed as advocating for the position that art must always faithfully reflect reality. Fuck that noise. When artists hold mirrors up to life, I like the glass to be at least a bit wibbly.
Beauties, Beasts, and a Lesson Most of Us Don’t Want To Learn

Beauties, Beasts, and a Lesson Most of Us Don't Want To Learn

This is a good read, an important read, and I’d like you to read it all. Gyzym is gentle but firm in explaining why movies like Beauty and the Beast can be jarring for those who didn’t realize that the fairy tale is actually a classic domestic violence scenario.

That’s important to face. And for those who would rather not face it:

We can argue for media that doesn’t push the horrible shit we need to unlearn as a society to get to a healthier place, or we can point out the flaws in our preexisting media, or we can do both. But “Just shut up,” isn’t an option. “Just shut up,” can’t be an option, because we can’t keep playing the “Nobody told me because nobody told them,” card. Nothing will ever get better that way. Nothing will ever improve if we keep not telling people this shit.

People not shutting up and speaking hard truths to hear may have caused me some discomfort and made a few favorite films, songs and books impossible to enjoy without acknowledging their deep flaws, but those folks who said “No, I won’t shut up” and continued to speak the hard truths made me a better human being. When I get back to fiction, they’ll have made me a better writer telling better stories. And they’ve made me unwilling to shut up my own self, which may not be the popular thing, but is a necessary thing, so fuck if I’ll stop. Even if I end up with kids (not necessarily my own, mind you). Even if they groan and grump and implore me to STFU during their show. Like George Wiman said when he posted this link, this is “Why it’s important to do MST3K with your kids when you watch movies.” Because while there’s such a thing as willing suspension of disbelief, we need to be trained that suspending disbelief should be a conscious act, and revocable upon return to the real world.

Fiction is useless except as a panacea if we can’t use it to compare and contrast with our real-world lives, if we can’t use it to throw our conditions and relationships and societies into starker contrast, if it can’t help us think. Escapism is lovely, and I love engaging in it. We all do. But we need to be conscious what we’re escaping from, and escaping in to, and watch out that we don’t allow our lovely bit of escapism to subtly normalize very problematic things*. Performing the occasional MST3K exercise on movies we enjoy is good practice for recognizing problem patterns in life. It’s necessary for separating fiction from fact.
And for those who want to cry, “But it’s art! You don’t need to take it so seriously!!” I have just one thing to say: art was never advanced by people passively enjoying the status quo. “Just shut up” isn’t an option for life, but it isn’t an option for art, either. If you truly love art, you will give it no quarter.**

We can do better.

The Beast with a rose. Image courtesy Nieve44/Luz on Flickr.
The Beast with a rose. Art with a problematic message can still be loved and appreciated as art. It can help us navigate the complexities of our world. But only if we’re willing to engage it. Image courtesy Nieve44/Luz on Flickr.

*Read this link. I mean it. Miriam hadn’t even written it when I wrote this piece, but it’s like she’d read my mind and knew I had this post sitting in drafts, and wrote it for the line I inserted it in to, and it says much of what I intended to say, and more.

**Nothing in the above should be construed as advocating for the position that art must always faithfully reflect reality. Fuck that noise. When artists hold mirrors up to life, I like the glass to be at least a bit wibbly.
Beauties, Beasts, and a Lesson Most of Us Don't Want To Learn