Friday, January 30, 2009

you can read me like a book

The venerable Wall Street Journal has an article in its Book Lover column about fictional crushes. Naturally, this stems from Twilight-mania, but I would be lying if I said that there weren't a few good men from between the pages who have claimed a tiny piece of my heart.

Gilbert Blythe, from Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne series, has ruined me for other men. Montgomery's characterization of him is just awesome: he loves Anne for who she is, and is drawn to her strength and her intelligence. He's also proud, so he is an actively participant in their relationship.

I also love Andrew Ryan from Kathy Reichs' Temperance Brennan series for many of the same reasons. The replacement of the Ryan character with David Boreanaz's FBI agent in the TV series is one of the main reasons I don't watch Bones on TV.

Jon Snow in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Craig in Craig Thompson's Blankets graphic novel.

I'm sure there are others, but I'm quite tired and can't think of them.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I like to think of myself as a creative person, but if that were true, wouldn't I have a lot more to show for it? There may be a lot going on in my mind, but I'm seldom able to transfer that from the realm of possibility to the tangible world. There are currently two novels, a play, a screenplay, and a couple of poems in my head; the sum total of all these in terms of actual writing is probably less than two thousand words at present. I lack discipline and confidence.

So imagine my surprise, then, when I picked up a stitch library at a friend's house over the weekend, and thought, "I could make a sweater from that." And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there are several knit items that I want that don't have patterns. The only solution is simply to create themselves. I've got five projects in mind: a cowl, a pair of mittens, a pair of socks, a series of purses incorporating elements of Charles Rennie MacIntosh's work, and the sweater, which I think wants to be knit in a wool-silk blend and will use a Gothic spire stitch pattern.

It remains to be seen, of course, whether I'll be successful in producing patterns for any of these, but I remain hopeful that I can make it work.

Monday, January 26, 2009

in the arms of a poet

I'm about to see a major project come to fruition tonight: My department's fourth annual creative writing exhibition. I've spent much of the last month drafting letters, booking rooms, emailing, editing copy, calling writers, cajoling writers, badgering writers, and all manner of stuff. I'm excited because it is good to see the results from the things that you do. Knitting is good for this; teaching first and second year university students critical reading and writing skills is usually...not. I've also been self-appointed as the event photographer. The university has loaned me a Nikon D-SLR, which is quite nice, and I'm hoping to spirit it away home to take pictures of Finished Objects, and also of the Cat.

I'm wearing my new sweater for the first time in honour of the occasion. I've already got two compliments on it from students.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Starting Over, Passing Through

I didn't get to watch today's inauguration because I was busy running around trying to get a variety of things organized. One of my colleagues is out for two weeks, as per doctor's orders, so I am having to pick up one of her classes and a joint project we are working on. This isn't really a big deal, but when you combine it with essay proposals in both of my courses and the general high anxiety levels of my second year students...well, let's just say that it makes for a busy day.

A few good things did come out of all the busy times, though: I snagged a waffle iron and a hot air popcorn popper, and my new glasses were finally in! The types of people who "design" glasses frames (or lend their names to such) fascinate me. There's everything from Hilary Duff to Nintendo to Eddie Bauer to Cadillac. The pair I wound up with are Cosmopolitan (...I know) and I have to say that I think they are pretty sharp. This is my first new pair in about 3 and a half years, and it's marvellous to be able to SEE again.

Reading the status updates of my friends on Facebook today has been a tremendously uplifting experience.[1] It's hard not to catch that optimism, that hope. In one of those moments that is truly serendipitous, my first year students are reading Nella Larsen's Passing, a novella that will challenge them to consider and re-consider how they perceive race and gender. Right after the first lecture, one of my students asked me, "But how can it be that no one notices that these people are black?"

Which is, of course, a very loaded question to deal with in that few minutes while your class is filing out and the next class is filing in to the lecture hall.

My students attend a *very* white school. (In fact, every time I see the school's latest marketing campaign, I laugh a litttle, since it suggests a student body that's much more diverse in terms of both race and gender.) A lot of them will have never thought about race in anything more than an abstract way, much less realized the myriad of ways that race shapes discourse and interaction in our society. I'm hoping Obama's inauguration allows at least some of them to engage with the ideas that Larsen proposes in her novella.

1. The other thing that really struck me, upon reading through pages of Facebook status updates, is how many people viewed this as a historic moment. Which, duh, it obviously is, but it's interesting to see how people identify it as such in the moment: " watching history being made" etc. CNN has historic t-shirts, too. The half life of nostalgia is truly growing smaller each year...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Reading, Knitting and Other Diversions...

Reflecting on yesterday's first post,[1] I'm sad that I no longer read as much as I should/want to/used to. Knitting takes up a lot of reading time, you know.[2] I'm currently cracking through The Mill on the Floss again, while working on two lace projects: Wisp and Ice Queen.

I think it's time for me to start listening to audiobooks again, so I can do both at once. Listening is such a qualitatively different experience from reading, though...

[1] Which I keep having to edit as I think of other reasons why I read.
[2] So do video games.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Poetry mittens

Two posts in one day, I know. But I just couldn't wait to write about these: Poetry Mittens.

According to the Knitting Daily newsletter, poetry mittens are an early American tradition, where women would choose their favourite poems and knit lines from the poems into the mittens. They're pretty awesome looking.

(Boyfriend thinks they are the nerdiest/lamest thing in the world. He is lame and thus I am never going to make him that second mitten.)

The most important question, obviously, is what poem to pick.

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs
--Wallace Stevens

Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
--T. S. Eliot

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
--Matthew Arnold

All good possibilities...but what I would likely choose:
Hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon.
--Edward Lear

At least until I can choose a Finn song, anyway.

The Big Question

Karie asks an important question over at her blog: Why Do You Read?

I read because I can.
(And let's be honest, it's one of the only things I'm good at. I'm a really good reader. I read at least 600 words per minute, and have impressive retention skills for what I have read. It seldom takes me more than a day to finish a novel.)

I read because I enjoy it.
(I do. I like books. I like holding them, touching them, ogling their covers, learning about the characters, solving the mysteries, falling in love when the characters do, being devastated when they are, laughing at the good bits, crying at the sad bits. I like what reading tells me about myself and about other arounds me. I like that I can read serious academic works and the most trivial mysteries and comic books and enjoy all of them.)

I read because it's compulsive.
(It really is. I'll read the ingredients on a cereal box if nothing else is around. I have to be careful when I read comics because it's very easy for me to forget about the pictures and focus just on the text.)

I read because I get paid to.
(I love my job I love my job I love my job.)

I read because I makes me happy.
(When I was a child, one of the most effective punishments was for my parents to take away my books.

I read because I get lost in what I'm doing.
(There are numerous stories about me getting lost on the way home from school because I was too busy reading to watch where I was going. I never actually got lost--we lived too close--but I did tend to dawdle.)
Why do you read?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

oh, the weather outside is frightful...

I could not blog today without talking about the weather. It is cold here. In all fairness, cold does not begin to cover it. At present, it is -32 celcius here in North Bay. The television tells me that this can technically be referred to as a deep freeze. The only good thing I can think of right now is that at least when it's this cold, it doesn't snow.

Second term is now underway. I feel bad for my second year students, as I think they are vastly unprepared for the onslaught of work that's about to hit them in the next three weeks. I have to keep reminding myself that it is not my fault if they are unable to read the schedule of assignments off their syllabi.

I've decided to make it a point to mention Twilight in each of my classes this week. We're doing Great Expectations in first year, and Tennyson's "Tithonus" in second. What is the relevance, you might ask?

For Great Expectations, we're reading and comparing the two endings that Dickens wrote, and discussing which we think fits the tone and scope of the book better. (I am published ending FTW, by the way.) One of the questions I like to put to the students is to what extent an author needs to consider how his or her audience will react to a text. Harry Potter and Twilight are the obvious comparisons because of how personally invested their readers tend to become in the stories. It's actually prompted really good discussion from a (normally) fairly quiet class, so I'm quite happy about that.

For "Tithonus", we've been talking about what aspects of the Tithonus myth are relevant to us, and the idea of eternal youth/beauty to go along with immortality presents an interesting segue to Twilight and our larger obsession with vampire stories. The ideas of immortality and eternal youth are so closely intertwined for us that you almost wouldn't consider them separately. (And, of course, in Twilight, Bella is obsessed with being even slightly older than Edward.)

I finished my sweater, and it is huge. It actually looks more like a sweater dress. Stupid blocking. I'm not sure how I feel about it yet. Perhaps once I get the sleeves on I'll feel more kindly to it. I've started a new Wisp in the KnitPicks Imagination sock yarn, which is an alpaca/wool/nylon bled. The colourway is called Looking Glass, and it's the most lovely shades of blue, green, and grey. It actually reminds me of beach glass.

I need another project, but just can't seem to figure out what I want to knit. It's making me antsy.