Thursday, August 26, 2010

Why I Don't (Often) Read...

You know...I have an English degree. Yeah, I know...but it's true. And I don't read. Shocking, I know.

There was a time when I made sweet, sweet love to my Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volumes A, B and C; a time when I read "Wuthering Heights" by Emily Bronte and then didn't sell it back because I genuinely enjoyed the experience. I remember my elegant introduction to a certain Henry James, not via "The Portrait of A Lady" as so many have assumed but rather though the less common "Aspern Papers." I still have the $4 "Everyman" edition I bought used from the bookstore of Central Michigan University, a bit tattered and certainly well-worn. Jane Austen's "Emma" and Robertson Davies' "Fifth Business" languish on my bookshelves, though, in truth, I'm fairly certain the latter of two is there because the bookstore wouldn't give me any money for it.

I had professors who opened the doors and ushered me through to a world of analysis and a level of craftsmanship heretofore unknown to me. Deborah Aldrich-Watson gave me the key to understand medieval literature, especially the work of John Donne. One in particular, William Mayhan, was hands-down the single best literature professor I ever had the pleasure of taking a class from, three times: Intro, poetry of the Romantics and the Victorian novel. Bill, you completely rocked my literary world. I loved to attack my paper topics like I was in an episode of "Law & Order," proving beyond all doubt that William Faulkner's Miss Emily wasn't as batshit crazy as everyone thought but who was merely the victim of a horrible life of heinous abuse. You better believe I scored an "A" on that one!

My Anne Rice, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter and Shakespeare take up space on a set of twin bookcases positioned on either side of the entry between the living room and would-be-dining-room-turned-office. They stand there, sentinels of knowledge, keepers of extrodinary worlds, the indelible prints left on this world by some of the greatest (and not so great) minds of our time...and I completely ignore them. Dust collects on their gold-trimmed heads and at the base of their spines, which I wipe away with lavender-scented dust cloths about once a month. Why?

Because...I knit.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Kitty Blankets

Okay, okay...will you people all just simmer down? I know, we've got a lot to go why don't we all just take our seats...Mildred, Leafa...are you about done? Thank you, now...

The first order of business concerns the creation of a new blog. Yes, yes, I's quite exciting but just...Bob, sit'll have plenty of opportunity. Alright, now...I've called it and it'll be the new location of "armchair political commentary." Basically, I've picked up my soapbox and set it down about halfway down the block. I started this blog, right here, as a place for my adventures in knitting with my cats and a little gardening thrown in for good domestic measure. I wanted to attract other knitters (with or without cats who may or may not garden) and, though I feel strongly about certain things goin' down in the world, we knitters come from varied and diverse backgrounds and I want to turn no one away. Politics and social commentary can be polarizing so...we moved them up the street just a bit.

So, on to the knitting, shall we? Harvey, Gladys, good of you to come but the cookies and punch are for after the meeting...okay?

Knit Picks September 2010

I was so excited when I got home from work. Look what came in the mail!

It's the newest issue of the Knit Picks catalogue! For those not in the know, Knit Picks is a really great, economical, online knit shop with an astounding array of options. You can check 'em out HERE. This is by far my favorite issue...the layout and organization is just superb and oh, what's all about autumn, my favorite time of year. Since I've also been conducting Yarn-Over 2010 since the beginning of the year, this is about as close to shopping as I get.

Speaking of Yarn-Over 2010, it's progressing along quite nicely, thanks for asking. A brief recap: I vowed to go all year without buying any new yarn. No, could be given, traded, long as money did not change hands, it was good. I meant for it to be both a stash busting and budget balancing event, which it definitely has been. I can honestly report that since the first of the year, I have purchase only 2 balls of yarn and, in my own defense, those 2 were for a project that was started well before the beginning of the year AND said project was for someone other than myself, THEREFORE...what's a guy to do? Leave a pretty German lady out in the cold without a hat? You see my point. Aside from that, new yarn.


People...people...don't make me call in security like last time, okay? I know it can be upsetting to some of you, all this talk about "no new yarn" but I assure you, it's much less jarring than you might imagine. In fact, I recently got to bust out of my stash some "vintage yarn" that I've has lying around for some time. This yarn has got to date back at least to the 80s, if not before. I mean check this shit out, yo...

Miracle Match

I mean, Just take a look at the labels, the was $1.49 a skein!


But wait...oh, what's that...what's that down in the corner of the label? Hah! It's the Amoco Oil logo...on a label for YARN!


I'm sure this is pre-BP ownership days but still, I knew I had to make something charitable out of it, if only to put something BP/Amoco/petroleum-based to good use. So...I present to you...


...kitty blankets, or CatMats, as I like to call them. I'm making a total of six for a local feline shelter, called Tenth Life. Though they don't yet have a physical building, they do have a network of foster homes and they focus on kittens and cats with extreme medical needs for which other shelters might find difficult to bear the financial weight. Though I can't adopt or foster, I can and do knit...and as any knitter with a cat will tell you, they just love to lay all over your stuff. I've included the pattern below, though you could probably come up with your own just as easily as I did. I added bit of left over sock yarn from the Sock Yarn Blanket in order to give myself some variety in color and to add some stripes.


Using any worsted weight yarn with US10s or US10.5s and using the knitted cast-on, CO 82sts.

R1-10: Straight garter stitch. Then...
R11 (and every WS row): K7, p68, k7.
R12 (and every RS row): K all.

This will give you a blanket approximately 22" wide. For the length, you decide. My shortest clocked in at just 16", the longest at 25". Really, the length is usually decided for me based on the sock yarn scraps I'm using to make stripes or patterns. When the blanket is as long as you want, then do another 9 rows of garter and bind off.

Now, that's all I have for this evening. I know you might be anxious to see some early pictures of the Bitterroot I'm working on but, as with all lace projects in their early stages, this one just looks like panties all bunched up...and, frankly, no one wants to see that, not even if they're your own, so...let's just move on.

The comment box is in the back, as always...and there are cookies and punch on the table back there. Thanks for your time and attention...I'm tired, shit.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Prop 8

It's Saturday morning, a few days after a Federal judge overturned California's Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment defining marriage for that State as a union between a man and a woman. In a nutshell, Prop 8 was ruled unconstitutional on the grounds that is denies equal protection and due process as put forth in the U.S. Constitution to gay men and lesbians. An inevitable appeal was filed the next day.

So, for the past several days, after having read the 138-page decision, I've been bumbling around my apartment trying to understand the rationale behind the argument for those who actually support Prop 8. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I am gay and, therefore, entertain a certain bias. I am also, however, mightily interested in trying to not just comprehend but also understand the other side of the coin. This has led me to read some dissenting opinions, to watch some segments from Fox News and to follow some more conservative Twitter feeds. I have found about what I expected: crazy conspiracy theories, poorly written essays, flawed logical thinking.

But I have also found some well-written and considered entries, as well, and though I cannot agree with their stance, I can at least begin to see where some of them are coming from.

For starters, can we just agree to forgo any discussion of religious belief, faith in Jesus or abominations in the eyes of God? See, I'm not a Christian, though I respect that you may be, and I have serious reservations about injecting religious or spiritual beliefs into a conversation best reserved for rational, factual, common-sense basis. We can still inject personally held ideas and the conversation can still be passionate, heated...but I would no more impose my religious beliefs upon you and I expect the same.

Religion shouldn't be the purview of the State, and maybe that's where we first diverge in opinion. Even within Christianity, there are too many variations, too many subtle differences between the myriad denominations...but when you add into the mix the other religions of the world that the U.S. is an oasis for, then the waters become too murky to actually promote forward movement. We all just stand around, arguing our points to people who, like us, are already too deeply entrenched in their own value system to objectively entertain the option of anything else. Everything becomes point-counterpoint...a verbal game of tennis in which we each try and knock down the arguments of the opposing side without actually trying to understand the ideas put forth. So, I leave you with your God and you to mine. Thanks...

First, I don't understand how same-sex marriage would detract from or weaken the institution, as I've heard so many claim. During the campaigns leading up to the election, this was one of the major arguments put forth but I have never, truly understood the logic behind the statement. How would my State-recognized pairing/partnership/relationship in any way adversely affect your State-recognized pairing/partnership/relationship? That's the question and I'll gladly entertain any serious, non-faith-based response you'd like to offer. Don't mention the Bible to a holder of 2 college degrees I would put forth that, as a factual source, the Bible is out-of-date and unreliable at best. No, describe to me how my relationship actually takes anything away from yours.

The loudest cry I've heard from the pundits of the Conservative Right is that the Will of the People has been brazenly trampled by yet another act of judicial activism. I really hate that term, by the way...judicial activism. If I remember correctly, the term was brought into vogue during the W.'s first term, when Bill Frist was Senate Majority Leader, to provide political spin to judicial decisions, usually made in favor of the Liberals. The Massachusetts gay-marriage decision was one of those decisions. Judicial Activism! they cried. We cannot allow our non-elected judges to abuse their positions for furthering their own beliefs...that is until a decision upholding the constitutionality of a highly restrictive abortion bill is handed down, then God's Will has been done. The Dems were a little slow on the uptake with that one but eventually, even they started spinning Judicial Activism back at the Right, like badly aimed ninja stars. We're all hypocrites, people...just politicians more than most.

But where was I? Will of People Trounced! News at 11...yes. It's true...Proposition 8 was approved by the electorate of the State of California. 52% of voters agreed that "only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." And yes, one un-elected Federal judge took that 52% and canned it in one fell swoop. C'mon, people...institutionalized discrimination is never a good thing...and sometimes the Will of the People is wrong. Oh boy...I'm gonna get in trouble for that one, aren't I? Well, it's true. I think it is fundamentally wrong to deny something, like marriage, to one segment of society to which all other segments, have open and free access. Can a black marry a white? Can my sister vote in an election? Is a black man an Man? Or only 3/5? When you're dealing with issues involving respect and human dignity, you simply do not put that up for a popular vote by a generally uninformed and impressionable "People."

In case you didn't already know, as a country, in the realm of politics...America, you're dumb. And that's me being nice. France consistently breaks 60% voter turnout; Germany is 77%. In an election year, we're lucky to break 50% and the number goes down from there. As a culture, we are more concerned about Lindsay Lohan in jail than the BP oil spill. Our collective attention span is about 2 weeks, near as I can tell, and then we move on. Recently, when I mentioned something about the Gulf, one of my co-workers sincerely asked, "Is that still going on?" In terms of our political involvement, participation is even worse. I now understand where the idea for the Electoral College came from. As sad as it is, people can often not be trusted to choose what is in their own best interest. We see this on the individual level all of the time and it's true in the grander scope of our society, as well.

Now, don't get me wrong...I whole-heartedly believe in self-determination but I'm also a big fan of not hurting other people. I'm a soft touch that way, I guess. You go ahead and do what you want. So long as you're not hurting others, I'm apt to let you alone. The essential character of Prop 8, however, does hurt people and quite a lot. It denies the recognition of a relationship by the State, and all benefits therein, to a suspect class of the population when such recognition is readily and freely available to all other segments of the same population and, in fact, has always been readily and freely available to the rest without the need for a constitutional amendment saying as much. Proposition 8 is all about one (large) segment of our society telling another (smaller) segment, "No, you can't have that. It's only for us."

And that is simply wrong.

There are other points, too: the concept of "ordered liberty," the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment...but those are perhaps for another entry. I am far from having said my peace on this issue, just as the Courts are far from having said theirs. Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night!