Sunday, December 30, 2007

If Only: Legend Of The Red And the Blue

When I saw this one, I thought it might make a good educational video for both sides of the current presidential campaign.

Or at least go a step towards sorting out the next recount.

Call me an idealist....

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Atonement: A Groan, They Meant

Okay, so it's a big family tradition round here on December 26 to go to the movies. First, we read the reviews and argue for an hour about which movie to see. A few of us opt out, others opt in, and finally we set out for the theatre at the last possible moment. Just to get that adrenaline flowing. This is all part of the family tradition.

And it was adrenaline we needed this December 26 -- along with a good, stiff drink or two -- to get us through our viewing of "Atonement," the latest period-piece-Brits-in-love flick that's currently in just about every local theatre near you. If you want to see gorgeous interiors of a British manor house, beautiful shots of Keira Knightly, and really good extra close close-ups of people's eyes as they have DEEP THOUGHTS, along with the naked subjugation of the British lower classes, this is the movie for you. If you were hoping to witness a plot that actually moves forward at any discernable pace, the exchange of feelings and thoughts between adults, and a final resolution of the film's conflict, you might as well stay home and watch the Simpsons. You'll definitely find more of the latter there.

Now, I would not be so snarky if I went off to "Atonement" just hoping for some fluffy entertainment. But when I read "Nominated for 7 Golden Globe Awards!" and "Already An Oscar Winner!" in normally reliable venues such as the New York Times, I figured that I was in for some real blockbuster drama -- and romance. I was quite disappointed to find that this movie about as dramatic as tepid tea. The central characters are so hamstrung by British stiff upper-lipness, that one of their more gripping romantic interchanges is "I'm sorry, I can't remember if you take one lump or two." I'm not kidding. There is more pursing of lips than a year of Mick Jagger concerts. Sure there is the "two young lovers torn apart" theme, but these young lovers have so little time or reason to be together, that it's hard to believe they shouldn't really be down at the pub chatting up some new prospects. Dickens and Shakespeare -- too Brits who gave us some of the truest conflicts amidst romance run amok -- would be, well, quite put out.

And then there's the gratuitous use of the suffering of others. Much of the movie is spent on witnessing the male protagonist wander through war-ravaged landscapes muttering about his lost love. Personally, with German snipers intent on murder and the ground underfoot rife with landmines, I find it hard to believe that this guy would spend most of his brain power reading love letters on the lam. Meanwhile, the female protagonists work in London hospitals, carting in soldiers with every manner of gruesome wound. This would not seem so unbelievable, if it didn't look so much like these movie-makers were exploiting the real tragedies of those WW2 Londoners just to sell a movie. But, that's exactly what this movie viewer was left thinking. It's all the drama and blood of "Private Ryan," but with no real point behind it.

As for the surprise ending -- which I know was a big selling point that got me in my movie seat -- you probaby discovered more surprising things under your Christmas tree this year. The ending, while somewhat unique, leaves the viewer more certain than ever that the puppet masters behind the screen REALLY were just out to pull your heartstrings -- and still only managed a short tug. The lovers never believably love and the central deluded character continues her delusion -- at great expense to everyone around her. Especially you, who just wasted $9.50. And that time you could have been watching the Simpsons.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

May You Be Merry and Sag, Ya'll

Yes, we celebrate it all at our house. We light candles, say our prayers in Hebrew, and never put up our Christmas tree until my German Jewish mother-in-law arrives here to help us pick it out. At our house, we believe in honoring all the holidays...and in having the good will to see the irony and fun in all of them.

Apparently, we are not alone...

Here's hoping you all have a happy, wonderful time today. Merry Christmas, Sag Hameach, and Happy Kwanzaa!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Luck O' The Irish

There was no luck involved in knitting this one -- just a lot of TV-football-game-watching, sick-child-minding, and phone-calls-to-my-mother time. For me, these activities cry out "survival by distraction!" and what a delightful distraction this was.

As Cheryl (pattern author) warned me, this shawl is BIG. In fact it's so big, I couldn't quite figure out how to photograph it best. (Not that my photo skills are much better than getting a snapshot of people lined up on the beach.) Of course, on this winter solstice and the shortest day of the year -- at least in terms of sunlight -- there was only tepid natural light to be had.  Not much help for knitwear photojournalism. 

I'm figuring this shawl will be perfect for snuggling up in our notoriously chilly living room on a rainy Sunday, let's say. I tried to persuade our dog, Smokey, to test out this theory, but he was not game.  He's got certain standards, after all.  Linen, maybe?

Shawl Particulars:

Pattern: Irish Shawl from "Folk Shawls" by Cheryl Oberle
Yarn: Brooks Farm Duet, 2000 yards, brown
Needles: Addi Turbo US Size 7, 60" whooper
Note: This shawl finishes up beautifully in a much shorter amount of time than you would imagine.

You Are So Wrong...A Love Story

My husband and I just celebrated our 13th anniversary. For various reasons both having to do with the length of time married and certain theories of numerology, this seems like an edgy anniversary. Maybe for the next year we better not try anything dangerous on a Friday?  

There are so many reasons for me to adore my guy.  The man is a schemer and a planner, so I am never surprised when he comes home and says something about, let's say, that new car rental business he started last year -- the one I had no idea existed until somebody called here trying to rent a 15-person van.  He tells truly impenetrable jokes that end with punchlines like:  "And then the rabbi busted up the focus group with a frozen whitefish."  And who could not love a man who takes the time to teach young boys how to belch talk and arm fart?  The man is talented. And he has exquisite taste in bling. And fish. I'm so happy he's mine.

But, what I consistently love about my husband is that he is always up for an argument.  It is what instantly attracted me to him.  I can wake him at 4AM and disagree with him about virtually anything and he will argue with me.  It's adorable, especially to my contentious Irish side.  Some people might coo with saccharine vows of love, but he knows my favorite term of endearment is "You were right and I was wrong... so wrong" delivered in the deepest too-many-cigarettes-while-closing-the-nightclub-voice. The man is sensitive. And then, of course, I have to love him for putting up with me for a truly scary number of years.  

For some good arguing for the sake of it:

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Accidentally On Purpose

So, there I was attempting to actually use computer code without supervision and -- instead of saving my template -- I changed it. Then, I thought the new template looked pretty good. Giddy with power, I was able to add a picture to the header.

Now ReefBayView has a different look...until the next time I try to use the complicated machinery, as Natasha would say.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

All I Want For Christmas...

Is a beach.  Yup, that's right.  A beach.  And not a wintry, let's play football amongst the snowdrifts on some New England beach like we are all living in a J. Crew add. I want to trade in my boots for some flip flops.  I want palm trees and sand.  I want a Christmas that requires at least a 35 spf.

These days, I might seem to be in the traditional Christmas spirit.  Sure, I'm doing the usual.  I'm stringing lights, breaking out the Santa candles and the reindeer yard art, and crumbling up regifted fruit cakes for bird feed.  But deep down, I'm yearning to be someplace MUCH closer to the equator.  I'm dreaming of a sky blue Christmas, one where I can divide my time equally between the sand and the snorkel mask. 


I blame my husband for this, of course. Until the man DRAGGED me off to Hawaii one year for Christmas, I was fine with the usual head cold and mistletoe holiday. I'd grown up saying things like "I couldn't live without the change in seasons" and "It must be SO SAD to not have a white Christmas." Now I know that those are just the platitudes we tell ourselves in these temperate latitudes. For me, Christmas changed forever on December 25, 1995 on a remote beach at the far end of Maui.

Some men search for the nice golf course on vacation; my husband works down the list of the top nude beaches. Given my semi-Catholic upbringing, this was one of those marital issues that had worked itself out over time, through a process of professional counseling and collective bargaining. Thus, on that Christmas day, it didn't seem odd to me that I found myself hiking down a steep cliff overlooking the Pacific toward a lovely, protected cove where about a dozen people divided themselves between snorkeling and caroling -- au natural. After a few anxious greetings of "Mele Kalikimaka" (Hawaiian for "Happy Christmas"), I joined my husband as a merry, nudie snorkeler. We snorkeled amongst the schools of yellow and blue tangs and other fish so colorful that they made the tree at Rockefeller Center look subdued. We picnicked and napped. And I'm proud to say that -- through the judicious use of sunscreen -- not a part of me glowed like a Christmas tree that night.

That Christmas went down in our marital history as the best holiday ever -- and ruined me for any Christmas thereafter that required having to wear more than shorts and a T-shirt. Similar to our annual Passover proclamation, "Next year in Jerusalem!", we end our Christmases now with "Next Year in St. John....Hawaii...Some Place With Palm Trees!"

This year, while I'm hanging garland with frozen fingers, I'll be Mele Kalikimaka dreaming...and looking forward to future tropical Christmases. Perhaps, Christmas in Australia, I've been thinking, where it's summer in December. Turkey barbeque and stories about Christmas kangaroos (a nice reindeer substitute). Since I'm pushing 50 and we now have kids in tow, I'm not so sure about a reprise of the au natural snorkel fest. Maybe me and the husband will have to leave that for our wild octogenarian days.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Equal Opportunity Religious Commercialization

Just so you know, my Jewish father-in-law sent me this one....

Thursday, December 13, 2007

2 Thousand Yards of Wet Yarn Later

Instead of lunch today, I blocked a shawl.  A big shawl. I've been knitting a bunch of shawls lately. And this seems to bust up the menfolk in my house, no matter how much I try to explain the beautiful pattern repeats and arrangement of yarn overs.

The knitting part I like. Blocking is another thing. There are few things I dislike more than blocking -- emptying mousetraps comes to mind. No matter how many towels, pins, and blocking wires I have on hand, I always run out of one or all of those things and end up with a killer backache.
This baby does, in fact, comprise 2,000 yards of Brooks Farm Duet, a mohair-wool combination.  My lumbar vertebrae can vouch for that.

The pattern, Irish Shawl, comes from Cheryl Oberle's excellent  book "Folk Shawls."  This is one of those "desert island" knitting books that everyone should have. Not only are the patterns beautiful, the descriptions of the traditional shawls make up a unique and delightful collection of knitting anthropology.

I had the great pleasure to begin knitting the shawl, sitting with the incomparable Cheryl herself when I was at the her workshop, the Taos Knitaway, this past October.  At the time, I figured I would finish this thing sometime in 2009, but the pattern was so straightforward and memorize-able, that I finished right before Thanksgiving.  I've just been putting off the blocking until today.

I just hope my shawl turns out as beautifully as the one shown in culturally appropriate green in Cheryl's book!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Finally, Someone Understands My Intimacy Issues

Ah, the single life.  Gabfests about the boyfriend.  The post-breakup analysis. The exchange of pre-relationship property.  All that good advice from your girlfriends.

Makes me almost wish I was dating again.


Monday, December 3, 2007

Letters and Numbers

I am designing some stained glass panels for display in a local home renovation showroom. (Thanks, Ethan!) I figured I should make something practical -- like letters and numbers. People might not include a decorative window in their renovation, but they just might go for commissioning their house numbers in the transom over the front door.

Drawing consistent, cohesive freehand letters and numbers is tricky business. (This is why those designer fonts are so expensive!) So I have spent the afternoon looking at fonts, blowing up the letter "A" and number "6" on my scanner -- to give myself a jumping off point from which to design my own letters and numbers for the panels. It's amazing how a tiny serif here or the way the loop on the "R" crosses its main vertical there can change your world. Okay, maybe just my world. I also had a few "outliers" to look at, letters and numbers from various oddball font books I've picked over the years.

There was a time in our Victorianish history when decorating letters was all the rage. Consider this. I mean, what were they thinking? And what is the monkey eating? (We can guess where he is looking.) And, more importantly, what happens when this gal has a bad hair day?

Then there is the case of symbolism overload. There are so many meanings in this letter "F" that it might be hard reading any further if it were actually used in print. Possible translation: A man with a flowery imagination (spray of posies from head), impaled by his own knowledge (see book), faces unrequitted love (see Cupid in bondage dangling apple), and hails from a family of birds who fish. With fruit? How the lobster doorpull plays into this, I can't tell you.

There were also letters that I couldn't even identify.

An "F"? A "T"? A case of curlyque overload -- in the theme of Queen Elizabeth meets Cher meets Victoria's Secret on quaaludes?