29 November 2010


...and it only took three days, a few thoughtful modifications, a perfectly justified amount of swearing, a corresponding amount of ripping out stitches, and voila! I felt slightly mortified by the idea of posing while wearing the dress to illustrate my success, but it just seemed wrong to lead on so many with the promise of something wonderful in one post and then not see it through properly with the evidence in another. In order to accurately realize the "contempory Japanese pattern book" aesthetic, which I think I achieved with a few changes to the pattern, it occurred to me that I ought to appear with some wholly irrelevant object. Since numerous catalogs are now exploiting animals as the accessory of the moment, a subject I grumbled about in my "not inherently interesting" post, the choice was simple. Nepalese yak head to the rescue.
Sexless prison garb you say? Oh well. I like it.

28 November 2010

Blair vs. Hitchens, Part II

Both the video and transcript of the Christopher Hitchens/Tony Blair Munk debate are now available at Hitchens' blog, Daily Hitchens.

27 November 2010

"trippingly on the tongue"...

      Ever since I read yesterday's entertaining Guardian article on the incursion of Americanisms into UK print media, our English language has been much on my mind. The article's central complaint sounded like this: the increasing reliance by British journalists on American English, including the especially vile American slang, is despoiling otherwise engaging articles whose points would be better appreciated if the language used to explain them was British English. The comments, in the main, reflected a hot-headed intolerance for US idiomatic imperialism and linguistic banditry.

      Some examples? "Can I get' vs. "May I have?", the suffix, "ize" vs. "ise', expressions such as "going postal", "my bad", "impacted" as a verb, "dude", "do the math", etc. I generally agree with the argument against the vernacular, although one of my favorite observations noted that the word for describing complaints about Americanisms was the same in British and American English: "petty". Undeniably, English is a rich, dynamic language and its inventive refashioning in the form of slang has had an indelible effect on languages worldwide. The fact that people care passionately about this is good.

     Then, last evening, I saw another example of this passion for our shared language via an interview with MK Asante, an author, filmmaker, and professor of creative writing, and Akala, a hip-hop artist who founded The Hip Hop Shakespeare Company, a theater production company in London. They discussed the impact of hip hop on the English language and noted that it served as an means to enliven and enrich rather than compromise our tongue.  Akala recited Shakespeare's 18th sonnet, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day', in a spirited hip hop cadence that was irresistible. What I found so exciting about the interview was the enthusiasm these gentleman feel for the work they do, for the obvious mutual respect they share, and their heartfelt mission to bring language to life with an unconventional approach. They get my vote for "Role Models of the Week".

Postscript: Please investigate the superb blog linked in the Guardian article and now here in my Reading List a droit, courtesy of its author, Lynne Murphy, a Senior Lecturer in Linguistics and English Language at the University of Sussex.

26 November 2010

Blair vs. Hitchens, tonight...

The much publicized and keenly anticipated Munk debate between Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens is being held tonight in Toronto. The event was sold out weeks ago, but, for a small fee, one can watch it via live streaming video. The resolution is stated below in an excerpt from the website:

"In a world of globalization and rapid social change does religion provide the common values and ethical foundations that diverse societies need to thrive in the 21st century? Or, do deeply held religious beliefs promote intolerance, exacerbate ethnic divisions, and impede social progress in developing and developed nations alike? To encourage a far-ranging discussion on one of human kind’s most vexing questions, the 6th semi-annual Munk Debate will tackle the resolution: be it resolved, religion is a force for good in the world."

Should be fascinating-wish I could be there!

25 November 2010

cloth, paper, scissors...

I have begun a new project. I don't want to mislead anyone into thinking that I'm especially productive; I'm not, certainly in comparison with those who create many of the beautiful art and craft blogs I visit often. I would like to be that sort of person, and perhaps one day I will be, but for now, I take on what I can when inspiration strikes. Lately, I have been coveting the sort of dress that one sees in those gorgeously produced Japanese craft books. I have many of these books on embroidery and making clever things from paper and felt, but none on sewing. I haven't enviable sewing skills; I plod along with obstinate determination and make many mistakes, so the idea of pairing my rudimentary abilities with a project made clear only to those who read Japanese gives pause. But, as aforesaid obstinate determination is one of my strengths, I have decided to modify a McCall's pattern, (# 5621, View C, if anyone is interested), into a vaguely Japanese sort of construction.

When embarking on a new project,
it often helps to consult an expert...

...or two...

"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "Thank You", that would suffice"
- Meister Eckhart

Happy Thanksgiving, one and all.

22 November 2010

the bunnies puffy...

Oh yes, that fiber festival you've all been wondering about. Whatever happened with that?  Well, I did find a hank of angora whose enchanting color nearly brought me to tears with its beauty. Perhaps it was the clever lighting enlivening this gorgeous hue; I had to make it mine.

And what to do with it? It was mentioned to me that a hat knit entirely with angora wool would be a hat seldom worn for all the heat it would generate.  During an enjoyable search for the right companion for the bunny puff, I purchased a skein of undyed Romney and Border Leicester wool mixed with alpaca from the really delightful woman who owns Tidal Yarns in Old Lyme, Connecticut. Her yarns were the most fantastic colors: earthy, subtle, sophisticated, and I bought a few more skeins in a shade gently reminiscent of marsh grass.

It knits up very nicely and will be made into a sweater eventually. For now, I must concentrate all attention on a lace scarf made from that intractable Araucania Itata. I have never dealt with a more obstinate yarn. The stitches seem to want nothing to do with one another. They look rumpled and unsettled and wholly unhappy. I am using a Barbara Walker pattern called Vine Lace from her first book, A Treasury of Knitting Patterns. I am hoping a long soak in a sink full of water will convince it that it would be much better off just shaping up to reveal the lovely pattern within.

21 November 2010

an unpleasantness...

I had the unfortunate experience, earlier today, to bear witness to the baneful effects of the current wave of fear and paranoia that have overtaken the American mindset. Daily, fresh horror stories related to the TSA and the indignities of airline travel fill the online news sites. I am not one of the four out of five Americans the TSA claims to fully support the use of the whole body scanning technology. I find it invasive, not just physically, but, and I think this is more significant, psychologically. Its use undermines the purported right, in the minds of possibly every American, that one has jurisdiction over one's own body, that one is entitled to self-ownership. I don't want this to be construed and categorized as a libertarian argument. At the heart of this matter is the deep conviction and consequent outrage over what many feel is an arbitrary violation of this right by means of authorized coercion. The comments following every online article I've read on this issue are angry, many of them alluding to potential retributive acts of violence. This keenly felt impulse belies the TSA's figures. Four out of five Americans, it seems, are as mad as hell.

I spoke with one of them today, someone I know, but he does not feel, as I and my friends do, that this technology and the tactics employed in its usage, constitute a threat to anyone's liberty. Airline travel, he asserted, at great volume, and with a stunning agitation, is not a right, but a privilege. Take the car or bus if you don't like the way the system is working. I do think, and said as much earlier today, that this view might be a bit of a hard sell with the 24 million Americans expecting to fly over the next few days. I was called a name or two, nothing obscene, but startling nonetheless. One of my friends was subjected to significantly more interesting and provocative verbal abuse when he stated that had he a teenaged daughter, he would be outraged at the prospect of what he referred to as "molestation" . Admittedly, this could be heard as an inflammatory word, certainly one with lots of feeling behind it, but he truly believed this and I absolutely defend his right to have an opinion, one I cannot honestly disagree with.
This was not what the now seething gentleman, (this description sounds jarring and may fall into the category of "oxymoronic infelicity"), wanted to hear.

It was, well, crazy. This chap was so caught up in his psychic conflagration that he simply could not reason. Nor could he listen to and tolerate the opinions of others. He resorted to ultimately futile tactics in order to wound those around him. His argument was preposterous. But, most worryingly, his emotion was beyond his control, and this unmanageable outrage is what I am hearing more and more of in this season of thanks. What has happened to us? How have we reached this awful place where fear and suspicion hold mind and spirit hostage?

On a related note, Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam uses a body scanner that works its magic with radio waves rather than x-rays or ionizing radiation and does not produce an explicit scanned body image, thereby addressing some of the more direct privacy concerns. Could this not work here?

13 November 2010

another post, not inherently interesting, but with feeling...

I have considered a number of topics, two topics, actually, in preparation for another post on my frequently neglected and largely unread blog. The postman has been delivering armloads of glossy Christmas catalogs, among them, two which struck me particularly for their gratuitous and puzzling use of animals as accessories to the unwearable and utterly beside the point items on view. This bothered me, a bit, as I'm proudly on the side of these poor beleaguered creatures set about posing with overstarched models or clambering atop upholstery. It seems wrong to me to coerce wild animals into doing things that they would simply not do. I don't know, perhaps the cat likes wearing a sweater, but given my extensive knowledge of the preferences of very many cats, average in nature and temperament, I doubt it.

It would not occur to me to harass my own felines in this way. Certainly, none of the cats I've had the pleasure of caring for would have tolerated such denigrating objectification. I know there is a culty sort of trend to put things on cats, and apparently, it still holds an attraction in a blog called Stuff On My Cat. But just look at the poor creatures, hostages all, sporting turbans or sweaters or laden with disposable and useless inanimate objects, refuse from our consumer culture, and all of them looking like they want to kick your ass as thanks for turning them into humiliating spectacles. If only they could. Maybe someday.

Then I thought I should post something with a broader social relevance. Gosh, Thanksgiving is coming up, busiest travel day of the year, millions of travelers heading home, or somewhere, many of them on airplanes. How is the Transportation Security Administration going to handle that with their controversial Advanced Imaging Technology scanners? A citizen's group has been formed to handle this probing question by nominating November 24, as "National Opt Out Day" , a day of passive resistance against what a majority of people deem to be
a crude affront to their privacy and an abuse of TSA power. So be it. One can resist the invasive and revealing body scan and be assaulted with even greater trespass via a "pat-down" or simply not fly at all. One can also vividly imagine the mayhem that may result as innocent citizens are frogmarched into the x-ray chambers and forced into shame-making submission. Look at where all this terror business has put us. Ingenious really, for terrorists, wherever they lurk, to get the United States government to do their job for them by promulgating alarming policies and carrying out rigorously enforced routines that provoke so much justifiable concern in its own citizens. Really clever that.

But then I thought, no, I really don't know enough about advertising or terror, not in any official capacity certainly, so I decided instead to stick closer to home, closer to the subjects I know at least something about which is why I am excitedly revealing my latest crush, Have I Got News For You, a British news quiz show seen in the U.S. on YouTube and a few other outlets. Where to start? My immediate concern is that nothing I say can do it justice.
The American NPR program, Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, is modelled after this UK original, but cannot, even in its most amusing moments, approach the magic and brilliance of its older and wiser parent. How best to describe this gratifying display of British wit and intelligence?

The show is hosted by various guest personalities and there are two teams, one captained by Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye, the other by comedian, Paul Merton. Two different guests appear each week and a series of questions are asked about relevant topical events. An hour's worth of material is recorded and edited down in order to fit a half hour format and cut out any potentially slanderous bits. The show starts with the host reading a trio of news related one-liners to laughter and applause. The main portion of the show involves several rounds of questioning on major news stories of that week. There was a Tabloid Headlines Round in which the contestants were quizzed on some of the more lurid aspects of the week's news, but this has been replaced with a sort of picture game which involves choosing the one picture that doesn't relate topically with the other three, or working out how the image presented is somehow otherwise relevant. There is also a Missing Words Round in which the contestants must fill in the blank space in a headline culled often from some amusing and obscure periodical.

There are a long list of running gags, punctuating comments with the word,"allegedly" is one of the more familiar.  When Member of Parliament Roy Hattersley failed to appear after two subsequent last minute cancellations, he was replaced by a tub of lard, carefully positioned before his empty seat and referred to throughout the program as the "Right Honorable Tub of Lard, MP".  It has to be seen, of course, to be appreciated, but HIGNFY is one of the things I most look forward to spending time with because it just really makes me laugh, and for that modest pleasure , I am deeply grateful.
Which brings me to a final observation about one of HIGNFY's more popular panelists and hosts, that mesmerizing and lively presence, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. His "Ping Pong" speech acknowledging the award to London of the 2012 Olympics is classic Boris in action and I share it with you here.