Friday, May 30, 2008

Winston's Review: Rowan Calmer


It's me, Winston J. Schmidt. I figured that since there still wasn't much going on with Suzanne's knitting, maybe I should help her out with the blogging. I thought I'd start with a yarn review, since I'm sort of an expert, at least on the yarns that she leaves unguarded. I know she was talking about modern art a couple of days ago, and I thought that was my cue to be creative with some found objects from her satchel, but I guess that was wrong, because I ended up on my tie-down and she spent two hours undoing what I did.

Yarn: Rowan Calmer

Yardage/Weight: 160m/175yds and...I can't read the grams because I chewed the tag. It looks like it might have said 50.

Fiber Content: 75% cotton, 25% acrylic.

Colors: 481 - Coffee Bean and 479 - Slosh. There's a 485 - Kiwi around here somewhere, but I couldn't find it in time to blend it in.

Texture: Plied, and maybe chained, and sort of crunchy from the dried spit where I'd already chewed on it a couple of weeks ago. It's really soft, like a good fleece toy.

Flavor: Tasty! I think it's the cotton.

Mouth Feel: It doesn't leave furry bits on my tongue or make me sneeze like the angora did. It's not squeaky when I chew it, not like the ribbon yarn. Even though it's plied, it's not too splitty, so I didn't end up with it stuck around my teeth.

Review: This is a nice yarn. It untangles and rolls right back up into a ball without looking too battered, and I should know, because I've tangled it up twice now. I did bite through a piece of the Coffee Bean, but it took a few minutes, so I guess that means it's a strong yarn. It comes in all kinds of subtle, sophisticated colors, and they all look good together. You can see in my work above that the blue and the brown look pretty cool when they're all wrapped around each other.

It's squishy and springy and I really wish Suzanne would leave it at home instead of taking it with her to work every day. It's not like I'm going to be able to get out of my crate and play with it, and even if I could get out of my crate, the first things I'd go after would be the throw pillows.

In conclusion, I really like this yarn. I like to walk around with it in my mouth.


Winston J. 'Bug' Schmidt

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Why I'm a Database Programmer, Part 1

I've been thinking about the nature of art. Specifically, I've been wondering what makes an object an objet d'art.

When we were in Amsterdam, going on six years ago now, we saw many great works of art. We also saw many, many mediocre pieces hung on walls, propped against pedestals, and projected on screens. Our biggest blunder was wandering into the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art. Maybe it was the depressive effects of the illicit muffin I'd had for breakfast, or maybe it was just an off day, but the Stedelijk saddened and angered me. I don't say this casually. I became profoundly depressed and enraged, and I was completely unable to externalize those feelings. Gallery after gallery, my rage and disgust grew as I trailed silently along after Accountant Boy.

Standing in the gift shop, I composed the following soliloquy. Skip the rest of this post if you're offended by cursing or profanity, you are a practicing artist, or you are Dutch.

"It's all a joke. A joke being played on us. We paid to get in here, so we've fallen for it. God, I hate artists. Twenty-six contrasty, poorly focused pictures of scaffolding hanging at waist height in a gallery with unpainted, cracked walls ISN'T ART! It's f&$king LAZY and I'm pissed off because, obviously, it's also F&$KING WORKING, since people, including us, have paid to see it."

I saw A.B. across the gift shop, browsing through a magazine. "Why doesn't he SEE MY SEETHING RAGE? If I go over and tell him, I'm just going to look like one of those tourists who 'just don't get it'. F&$K! How long is he going to look at that goddamn magazine? HONEY! It's NOT ART! It's SHIT! Wait, didn't some guy throw his own feces at a canvas and build a whole show around it? He was probably Dutch, too. I hate the Dutch. I hate modern art. I hate...Donatella? Donatella's a practicing artist. I bet she's in on it. They all are. They must sign a contract when they get their degrees. 'I promise to keep our secret - that we are really duping the public so that we don't have to get real jobs and contribute to a PRODUCTIVE SOCIETY - and never produce anything that takes more than ten minutes to slop on a canvas or print at the Costco photo lab.' Next time I see her, I'm going to tell her exactly what I think of her."

I turned my gaze to the book on which my hand was resting. The cover of this book consisted of four photographs and the artist's name, which I refuse to remember. The four photgraphs were - clockwise from upper left - three coils of wire on a sidewalk, a woman's naked breast, a leafless stick, and a dead bird. "Oh, holy F&$K ME RUNNING! I can't take it! How much longer can I stand here before I start overturning tables and screaming? Would that in itself be art? Performance art? THE STUPIDEST OF ALL ART FORMS? What the Hell is this place doing to me? Why does the music in here sound like a recording of a man pissing in a urinal? Oh, Christ. That's EXACTLY what it is! I HATE EVERYONE! WHAT WAS IN THAT MUFFIN?!?"

At that point, I lost the ability to think in words and became flooded with images of myself destroying the gift shop, a diminutive redheaded berserker in an Eddie Bauer cardigan. It was a fantastic short film - grainy and jumpy, complete with a soundtrack consisting entirely of a single note being played repeatedly on the cello - screening only in my own mind. When A.B. finally ambled over to me and saw my face, he dragged me out to the street.

The picture above was taken approximately twenty minutes before my breakdown.

I did tell Donatella what happened in the gift shop that day, and we laughed about it. I don't have the heart to ask her if she really believes that what she produces is art. I don't really want to know the answer.

I've been thinking about it since last weekend, when A.B. and I went to SFMOMA to see the Friedlander show. I love his work, and I wanted A.B. to see it and maybe get inspired to pick up a camera again. It was a great retrospective show, really showed the continuing evolution of his artistic style, and...see? Was it all of that? Or was it just several hundred photographs hung on a gallery wall? If you or I took thousands of pictures over the course of fifty years, would it be possible for someone to find several hundred of them good enough to hang in a gallery somewhere? Why is Friedlander more of an artist than you or I? If Belligero and I sit in front of a big, colorful canvas of painted soap boxes and A.B. takes our picture, does that become a new, distinct work, or are we simply adding a layer to the original piece? I've always loved that picture of us, but is it art?

I pondered this as A.B. and I walked away from the Friedlander exhibit. He went through the next gallery door before me, turned immediately and pushed me toward the stairs. "You don't want to go in there," he said. "We don't want another Stedelijk incident."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bustin' Out

I know, I know. It's like listening to a broken record. "Really busy...trying to time to blog...really busy..." In the last month, we finalized our adoption of Winston, we painted the kitchen, we went to Las Vegas and saw Rush, we ran a 12K and then walked the entire width of San Francisco a second time to get back to our much excitement, so little sharing.

Well, bad news. Today's not the day for changing. No, today I'm here only to plug the first group I've joined on Ravelry.

You know how I rarely talk about my stash in any detail, because I'm sort of ashamed of myself for collecting that much yarn when I average about five finished garments a year? It's not a joking thing to me. I think a lot of knitters say, "Oh, look at how much I have. Isn't it just terrible?" But I think they say it with a barely hidden glimmer of pride at their accomplishment. Not me. I'm not proud of what I've done. While I love almost every bunch of yarn in the bins, and I can describe every one of them in detail from memory, it doesn't make me happy to go out to the garage and see it. I'm sickened at the thought of the money I've spent on the yarn thrown into those plastic tubs, wasted until I can work it into something useful.

I often read suggestions for stash reduction, and I dismiss most of them outright.

"Sell some of it."

No. I love every skein. There's a reason I bought every single ball of yarn out there. It wasn't a random armload grab at a sale. I picked every one of them carefully and dreamed of what they'd be when I got around to working with them. Well, except the horrible mohair I bought from a few years back. That stuff is shit.

"Swap some of it."

See above. I love it. Wanting something different isn't the problem, because I have a little of just about every quality yarn on the market. I don't need to trade for anything else.

"Set a goal, and if you don't meet it, you have to give away one project's worth of..."

I'm don't do well when given an ultimatum. I'll take the consequences every time, for no reason other than to not give in. Well, maybe I could sign up for one of those stash busting groups and fail, just to get rid of the mohair.

Where am I going with this? I'm going here.

It's a group on Ravelry, started by the lovely Bobbi. No threats, no deadlines, no thinly veiled boastings, no pressure. Just a bunch of craftfolk, trying to help each other regain control of their money and their minds. Join us! If you're not on Ravelry, join Ravelry! You won't see my stash up there, because if I had the time to take pictures and upload all of it, I'd have time to knit or crochet it into something wearable.

I haven't bought any yarn since Stitches, way back in February. I don't plan to buy any more yarn in 2007. It's a start. (EDITED TO ADD: Uh...2008. I have this 6-7-8 dyslexia thing, see. It's why I can't ever remember my mom's exact date of birth, which might not end in any of those three numbers, but I always think it does, and I always think "the 28th? No, that can't be right. 27th? I can't ask her after all this time. Why do I do this every year? Maybe I'll call her on the 20th and ask her if she has any plans, and hope she tells me which day she's doing something. Yeah, that'll work..." (Sorry, Mom.))

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Lazy Sunday

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Working Hour

"I be mighty amused, miss! Why would'ye be wearing that fetchin' rag on yer head, then?"

"Oh, hey, Pirate Skull Planter. I'm feeling kind of glum, actually. My vacation wasn't long enough, and I'm losing my big, roomy cubicle, and I'm just generally out of sorts. By the way, the 'fetching rag' on my head is the back of my fisherman's rib tank. Thanks for the kind words of encouragement."

"And here I be thinkin' it your new jack. Lustrous and shimmery, like a piece of silver half buried in a keg of powder."

"Yeah, thanks, it is kind of...wait, what? I can't tell if that was a compliment. Oh, whatever. I just wish it were done. I've lost all desire to knit it, but I don't want to start anything else until it's complete. I don't have all that much in the way of summer clothes, so I have to knit faster if I hope to still be appropriately covered come July. I could end up wearing the Fluffy Angora Menace on a 100-degree day with the way things are going now. It almost happened today.

And I'm not kidding about the move. We'll be up in a hovel on the fifth floor by the end of the month. We're losing thirty square feet, including the rainforest corner I've set up over there. I don't know what I'm going to do with my trees."

"Ha! Fine bit of hilarity there, lass. Ye're pullin' my non-existent leg."

"If only I were, Pirate Skull Planter. If only I were. It's a third smaller, and the group that sat there before us were animals. They unscrewed half of the overhead lightbulbs because they wanted to work in the dark, and I think there might actually be graffiti on the cube walls. It's scrubby.

Ah, maybe it won't be so bad. If I had to pick any cubicle in the building other than my own, I'd pick that one. It's in a sunny corner, set back from the main aisle. The plants that I manage to fit in the space will be happier, and I've always wanted to sit near a window. You'll like it up there."

"Aye. One berth be pretty much like another for Pirate Skull Planter."

"That's the spirit! And I'll finish this sweater and it'll be stunning and appropriate for even the hottest summer day, and then I'll start in on something more exciting."

"Easy there, me little bowspirit. Ye don't want to engage in too much optimism all at once."

"I am still feeling a little grouchy about my vacation. F&%king short, expensive vacation, and now I'm not going to feel right about going on another one this year because we screwed up the budget with this one, and...hey, thanks, Pirate Skull Planter! I now feel perfectly balanced between cheery optimism and the kind of frustration that makes me want to punch people in the throat."

"Yar! Glad I could keep you on an even keel."