April 12, 2017
So last night I dreamed up an entire cheesy 80’s action movie. The plot: somehow, a floppy disk containing a bunch of top-secret Soviet plans gets switched out for a disk with video games, so the kids end up with the Soviet plans, and the spies end up with the games. (This is so circa 1985 I’m frankly shocked that no one ever actually did this story. At least I don’t think they did. Anyone?)
The main characters are played by William Shatner as the cynical cop with a heart of gold, and his sidekick is Patrick Stewart playing a Drunken Master-type martial arts character. (I know, right?!) The spies are a trio of deep undercover Soviet agents disguised as yuppies. One of them’s chosen weapon is a circular saw. Protip: circular saw is a terrible weapon. In my dream, he sliced himself more than anyone else, and the effect was more horrifying than comic. I couldn’t tell if it was supposed to be comic. There was a lot of blood.
There was also a French deli that was having chocolate supply issues. This was where the accidental swap with the disks happened.
Unfortunately, I woke up before anything in the plot could resolve. I woke myself up because I was just so surprised that this wasn’t an actual movie. This seems like it should be an actual movie.
April 3, 2017
First, a couple of events:
On April 14 at 7pm, the Colorado Book Award will start its reading series at BookBar. I’ll be there reading from my nominated book, Amaryllis and Other Stories.
The weekend after I’ll be at Starfest, but only for Sunday.
This past weekend, I committed yarn. A lot of yarn. In my defense, these are all earmarked for specific projects. Aren’t they all so pretty?!
March 8, 2017
Today is International Women’s Day.
A friend of mine has been knitting a lot of pink hats over the last few months. She keeps giving them away, because someone always wants one, and she can make more. Last week, she was waiting at an airport and spotted another knitter. The typical conversation ensued as she asked, “What do you have on your needles?” A sweater for her granddaughter. “And what are you working on?” My friend raised her needles to show a pink square of yarn. The other woman’s eyes got wide. “Is that one of those hats?” Yes. And then she smiled, “I’ve knitted some of those myself.” Instant connection.
This story made me think of two different passages in two of my favorite Victorian novels.
First, from A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens:
“Darkness closed around, and then came the ringing of church bells and the distant beating of the military drums in the Palace Courtyard, as the women sat knitting, knitting. Darkness encompassed them. Another darkness was closing in as surely, when the church bells, then ringing pleasantly in many an airy steeple over France, should be melted into thundering cannon; when the military drums should be beating to drown a wretched voice, that night all potent as the voice of Power and Plenty, Freedom and Life. So much was closing in about the women who sat knitting, knitting, that they their very selves were closing in around a structure yet unbuilt, where they were to sit knitting, knitting, counting dropping heads.”
(Let’s pause for a moment to admire Dickens’ writing, his cadence, the relentless repetitions and embedded ironies, and that killer last line. Dropping heads. Boom.)
Okay, I’m back now. This is of course Dickens’ master melodrama about the French Revolution, and what he is describing is the impending arrival of the Terror, the guillotine, and the story of the impassive women who sat as observes, knitting as hundreds of people were executed. Quite the scene.
Here’s the other passage, early on in Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad:
“Often far away there I thought of these two, guarding the door of Darkness, knitting black wool as for a warm pall, one introducing, introducing continuously to the unknown, the other scrutinising the cheery and foolish faces with unconcerned old eyes. Ave! Old knitter of black wool. Morituri te salutant. Not many of those she looked at ever saw her again — not half, by a long way.”
(Let’s pause for a moment to reflect that Conrad is writing this in his third language.)
Here, protagonist Marlow is describing the front office of the merchant company he works for. He’s about to be ordered to the Congo to go after Kurtz. The Latin is the old gladiator call: “We who are about to die salute you!” More knitting, more death.
I’ve often thought that you can take the girl out of grad school, but you can’t really take grad school out of the girl. If I were still in academia, doing close readings and deep literary analysis, here’s what I’d do with these passages: I’d try to find out if Conrad was specifically riffing on Dickens (I wouldn’t be surprised); where else this iconic image of women knitting as harbingers of doom might appear; I’d research the historicity of the image, if there is a source for women revolutionaries in France using knitting to encode records and send messages (wikipedia says yes! And associated with a women’s march no less, hmmm…..). I’d look for other ways knitting might appear symbolically in Victorian literature. Then I’d expand out and look for this image of women knitting at the boundary of Darkness in other periods of literature.
But I’m no longer in academia and however intrigued I am by all these questions, I don’t have a month or so to spend pouring through academic journals. I’m on a novel deadline.
However, I’ve lately become interested in the symbolic potential of knitting. It seems relevant.
In the two passages above, knitting is ominous. The knitting women sit at the threshold between life and death. It seems a strange association to me, because for me knitting is productivity, life, and love. It’s a thing that turns common yarn into sweaters, hats, scarves, gloves, socks, and a million other good things. A hand-knitted item is not just useful, it embodies the love and esteem of the one who knitted it for you.
But I wonder: if you don’t know how to knit, it’s a mysterious skill. Someone manipulates a couple of sticks in an arcane fashion, and cloth pours out. Objects with patterns, shapes, and complexity, made from the simplest tools. It’s a thing that mostly women do, often in groups, that looks a little bit like magic. Like witchcraft.
I imagine that the sight of tens of thousands of pink hats, and the dawning realization that they were not manufactured in some distant country, not funded by a dark conspiracy, that they were in fact made by tens of thousands of hands united in solidarity, right here in the U.S., was just as terrifying to some conservative commentators as the sinister Madame Defarge, knitting the record of who should die by the guillotine’s blade.
When commentators asked, Who funded all those hats? Where did they come from? We paused a moment before answering because we almost didn’t understand the question. Yes, yes they were made in America. We made them. And we realized these commentators who were so suspicious of the hats could not conceive of women communicating on a such a scale to produce tens of thousands of these objects. Could not comprehend women making such a powerful statement with their own two hands and a little bit of yarn. (Last year, after that regrettable hacking episode of Supergirl, I joked that no one would ever be hacking Ravelry to expose users’ information. I’m not so sure now…)
One suspects they have never been inside a craft store. Which is a little sad, isn’t it? I think of going through my life without making things, and I get ill.
Our hats are bright pink instead of the black wool of Conrad’s sentinels. It seems appropriately post-modern, that a sea of stylized pink ears should evoke similar foreboding in some. I approve.
But of course, they only appear foreboding to outsiders, to people who don’t understand the message. They see a ridiculous knitted object, maybe slightly risqué if they dared say the word out loud. Those of us who make and wear pink hats see solidarity. These hats identify friends. Some astute commentators have pointed out that the sea of pink hats means photographs from the Women’s March can never be repurposed and made to represent something else. They mean safety, that you can be among strangers and know you’ll be all right, because you see a knitted pink corner peeking out of a pocket.
They’re a symbol of what we can make, and the power we have when we unite. We make hats. We can remake the world.
Kitting, knitting into the light.
February 1, 2017
I had a really fun time in Santa Fe at the Jean Cocteau event. George and I were on stage arguing about which is better, New Mars or Old Mars. George is an ardent defender of Old Mars, the Mars we wrote about before we knew anything about what Mars is actually like. I’m a big fan of New Mars, the only planet known to be entirely inhabited by robots.
Between the trip to NM and visiting my parents, who puppysat Lily for me, this turned into a long weekend of travel and socializing, and I’m exhausted. I need to curl up on the sofa with the electric blanket and a hot toddy. Fortunately, season 2 of The Expanse starts tonight, so I think I’ll get my chance to just…chill…out…
Let’s see if I can get some writing done before I go hibernate. New Novel is at 26,000 words. Onward!
December 2, 2016
That was just one of the many great things Henry Rollins said last night at the Boulder Theater. I wasn’t going to go. I’ve come down with a wretched cold, and I’m feeling even more introverted than usual. But a friend had an extra ticket and invited me, and I went, and I’m glad I did because Rollins said a bunch of things I needed to hear, some catharsis after the election, creative inspiration, and just awesome stories about being a type-A personality punk with social anxiety bumping into folk like David Bowie and Ru Paul.
Mostly, for me, was the way he said it. He talked for two and a half hours straight, barely pausing to breathe, not stopping for water, the flow jumping from topic to topic to topic while somehow still being relevant.
If you’ve ever been to one of my Q&A’s or readings, you’ll recognize this pattern, because it’s pretty much what I do. I get one question, and forty minutes later I finally come up for air, chagrined that I’ve rambled on for so long and probably bored my audience to tears and WTF is wrong with me. But after seeing Rollins hold court and be riveting and inspiring, I realized that, Hey, maybe that technique is just fine. Fun, even. Fascinating, seeing all this stuff pour from one person’s brain. I’m not as good or practiced a public speaker as Rollins is, I could use some polish and refinement. But hey, I don’t think I’m going to worry about my 40 minute on-stage rambling jags anymore.
November 2, 2016
One of the ideas I’ve been noodling with lately is geeky theme dinners. Like, Harry Potter would be an excellent choice, especially if you could manage floating candles over the table. (Google brings up dozens of sites on the topic.) Lord of the Rings would also be excellent. Or an Unexpected Hobbit Party? Like this? There’s A Feast of Ice and Fire, the Game of Thrones cookbook. (Not recommended for weddings.) I would love to do something like this someday.
So I got to thinking what I would serve at an MCU-themed dinner.
Fondu, of course. And shwarma.
For Steve Rogers: meatloaf and apple pie. The meatloaf would have green chili because Steve is always up for trying new things.
I would need to comb through the movies and ID every cocktail that ends up in Tony Stark’s hand. Especially at the party at the start of Age of Ultron. I’d need to find out what dish Vision is trying to make — and getting wrong — for Wanda in Civil War.
Thor would need a Viking feast. A big roast bird, lentil stew, hearty bread. Mead.
Along with food actually served in the movies, ideally every character would have a dish to represent them, which means I’d need to figure out something for Nick Fury, Bruce, Clint, Sam, and so on. A lot of these dishes totally would not go together, but somehow we’d make it work. Much like the Avengers themselves.
Oh, and I almost forgot. Wait for it. . .wait for it. . .
October 28, 2016
My costuming skills are growing.
So, I’ve been thinking. Sometimes, the most striking cosplay takes advantage of the player’s own appearance, portraying characters he or she actually resembles. With that in mind, what characters should I attempt? If I wanted to go for a really accurate cosplay, what should I try?
I came up with two: Galadriel and Professor Trelawney.
And that is a very odd pairing.