Archive for August, 2008

You’d think…

Sunday, 31 August 2008

It’s been the holidays (back to work in the morning!), so it would make sense that I’d do more crocheting, reading, and, um, blogging, than otherwise. Right?

Apparently not. Actually, I have been reading, just not whole books. I’ve been reading/proofing/formatting pages of books, stories and other works over at Distributed Proofreaders, still. I am Smooth Reading one whole book, which I’ll let you know about shortly, when I finish it. It’s another of those somewhat-silly-but-fun light romances that come up on Librivox regularly, although it’ll be awhile before this one gets there.

Anyway, the tablecloth has slowed down, but will probably become my commuting piece, at least until I decide it really is too bulky, which will get it going again. And I do have four books for you:

240. The Beasts of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs

So I seem to be in a phase of really silly old stories, and I think I’ll be working my way through all of the Tarzan books on Project Gutenberg. This may or may not be the most ridiculous yet. It’s certainly the one where I began noticing that Jane doesn’t have a defined character or personality for Burroughs – she simply plays whatever female role he wants in the particular story. In the first she was beautiful, and the first woman Tarzan had been attracted to, and so he falls in love with her, but she feels honour-bound to another. (Just the first of her bizarre senses of the honourable course.) She’s mostly passive. In the second she can’t speak her mind until the very last moment, and so makes everyone involved unhappy for months on end. In the third – this one – she suddenly goes all mother-bear, active and willing to do whatever. I’m currently reading the fourth, and in the beginning, at least, she’s spent years forcing her husband and son into the restricted role in society she thinks she wants for them. Instead of her being a growing, important protagonist, she’s a foil to make Tarzan do stupid things.

241. The Illustrated Guide to Massage and Aromatherapy edited by Catherine Stuart

Yes, I’ve read it right through, and I’ve also tried out some of the suggestions for massaging one’s own feet, hands, neck and back. There’s lots more than that in the book, of course, and it is very well illustrated with clear photographs and captions. It is good for explaining what is likely to happen in a professional session of Indian and other head massage, ‘general’ body massage, Shiatsu, pedicures, manicures, aromatherapy, reflexology, Reiki, and more, as well as explaining how an amateur can try many of them out at home. It also talks about how each of them should and should not be used by people of different ages and medical situations. I especially like the foot massage before going to sleep, which has you squirt whatever light cream or whatever on, and then have the feet massage each other, so you don’t have to get up again to wash your hands.

242. Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

I have to wonder just how many orphaned girls really did get passed around between relatives and others (many of whom didn’t want them), considering how much of a staple of classic children’s (especially girls’) literature it is. (I’m thinking of Pollyanna, Anne of Green Gables, Eight Cousins, The Secret Garden, A Little Princess off the top of my head, but there are plenty of others. Note that most of these have sequels.)

Anyway, this is not so well known an example of the genre as those others, but it certainly has its merits (this reading not the least of them! – There is apparently another on Librivox, which I haven’t heard and so cannot comment on.) In this case, Elizabeth Ann, later known as Betsy, thankfully does have at least two sets of relatives who do want her, so that when sickness in the family she has grown up with until age nine means she must live elsewhere for a time, she can go to the Putneys, where she has a very different life from the very sheltered city existence she had experienced so far. She grows to enjoy living on the farm, and eventually must decide where she will stay.

243. Moby Dick by Herman Melville

I finally finished it, and although I do appreciate it a little more than I did before, I amn’t convinced it will be often reread by me. The reading is very good, but I just amn’t clear what Melville was trying to do, and therefore amn’t enthralled by it. A lot of the dialogue sounded to me like a play script. It’s late, and I amn’t really doing this justice. Most of what I said before stands.

Images of Ireland and fictions of Africa

Monday, 25 August 2008

The weather was finally good enough to go for an outing yesterday, and Luna came along. On the way, she helped me work out my filet pattern.
Luna bear with crochet pattern
Luna on tree branch
From the car park of Malahide Castle we walked across the park, and Luna took the opportunity to get a good view from a handy tree.
Malahide Castle
It’s a pretty and interesting place, but pictures aren’t allowed inside.
Malahide Castle
We were though.
Wooden door at Malahide Castle

238. The Return Of Tarzan By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Otherwise, well, I continue to have qualms about it, but I’ve just read the second Tarzan novel, this time direct on Project Gutenberg, as the Librivox version isn’t finished and doesn’t look to be any time soon. It’s just as silly and implausible, with just as many horrendous stereotypes and negative generalisations about (often imaginary) groups racial, national, or whatever (it often is imaginary whatevers, with Burroughs) of their time, as the first in the series, and as the rest of them probably do. The groups aren’t always African, either, but that is where most of the action takes place.

These are light melodramatic little stories, which to the modern ear are generally cringeworthy, and yet the hero continues as a part of the common culture.

239. Last Orders at Harrods: An African Tale by Michael Holman

I happened to finish this book today as well, and a very different take on Africa it is. Kuwisha is a made up country in modern Africa, where President Nduka mesmerises the overseas journalists, politicians, aid workers, etc who try to make him give more than lip service to a completely free democracy, end corruption and end human rights violations, while everyone else tries to get on with their lives, and a few try (more or less officially) to improve the lot of those around them. The doers are the ones who succeed in the task here, rather than the talkers, or those who try too hard to bring everyone else their way.

Here everyone is part of the international community, affected publicly and privately by lawyers, editors, activists, bankers and politicians from all over. This is a funny and provacative book, which has left me thinking about the state(s) of modern Africa, and whose role it is to affect change there.

Hm, can we find an African connection for Niccolo Rising chapter 13? Well, the time is going to come when Loppe will say what he thinks of the various bits of Europe he’s been dragged to (and which part of Africa he was dragged from), but Milan isn’t it.

Reading bits

Sunday, 24 August 2008

I’ve been avoiding the boring part of my filet pattern (I do more when travelling to outings or sitting about with people) by doing a good bit of proofreading (and some formatting) over at Distributed Proofreaders over the last few days, increasing my skills and pushing through some slow-moving French works. I don’t usually read much directly from Project Gutenberg – mostly I listen to Librivox works that use texts from PG, but as I don’t want to commit to recording, this is still a good way to give something back. I’m also enjoying actually using my French.

I couldn’t do that over Shabbos, however, so instead I retreated into nostalgia, reading through a gorgeous book my grandparents gave me on my third birthday.

237. Baby Animals by Jane Burton

As the introduction admits, this is really about baby mammals, rather than animals in general, but it’s no less informative or cute for that. Burton is a great photographer, and I rather like how she’s themed the pages. I’m presuming I’ve read the text cover to cover before, at some point, but I really couldn’t swear to it!

Questions of judgement

Thursday, 21 August 2008

So, having coming up with lots of interesting phrases and comments to work into my tablecloth, how come I started this massive – and thus boring to do – picture that’s taking up a very large portion of it? I haven’t made any appreciable progress on it today at all. I suppose I should go back to the motifs, which are small and interesting.

236. Mother by Kathlen Norris

Today’s new offering from Librivox is their first by Kathleen Norris, a short (seven chapters) well-read fable. According to Wikipedia it’s the first of her many very popular sentimental/romantic novels, and this certainly fulfils the description. The issues here, of the values and aspirations of middle and upper (in American terms) class women, and how many or any children fit into these, are still recognisable today, although the past 95 years have certainly made a difference!

Although the inspirational, eponymous Mother of the main protagonist, Margaret Paget, has quite specifically withdrawn herself from all close relationships beyond her husband and seven children, this is not the only lauded womanly role; Margaret’s slightly older friend and colleague, the widowed Emily Porter, is presented from the first as having fought for her teaching post, both for the enjoyment and for the financial security it brings herself and her two children. Margaret (Mark to her family, Peggy to her New York friends and acquaintances) is given the opportunity to compare and contrast their examples of giving, fecund maternity to the life of leisure and suavity she has always wanted and takes full advantage.

Niccolo Rising chapter 12. Claes’ unexpected skills come through.

Flitting About

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

filet butterfly

I’ve done this simple filet pattern twice recently in swatches (both in my Ravelry projects), so I thought I should put it into the tablecloth as well. I’m now working on another picture in it, that I knew would be big, but that looks to be taking up the vast majority of the piece now, which I didn’t really intend it to. Nevermind. So long as the yarn doesn’t run out it’ll all come together.

234. Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs

I must have spent practically one whole summer watching the old black and white Tarzan films on the television (they had a different one on at the same time every day), and then a year or two ago I found a new edition of this first book of the series, bought it and read it, but didn’t find any of the later ones. Now I find that Librivox has the first and third, with the second in a limbo, part way complete. So I just listened to the first now, and intend to listen to what there is of the second, and read the rest on Project Gutenburg, then listen to the third, and possibly read some of the others. (I believe they may not all be out of copyright as yet.)

I am starting to wonder, listening to all these classic/old novels, just how much the inherent racism can just be ignored as a product of the times in which they were written. Not that it isn’t true, but for myself perhaps I should protest, or stop listening, or something. It’s definitely more of an issue with this work than many of the others, since so much of it is about Tarzan trying to work out value judgements about the various creatures, peoples, societies, individuals, moralities, he comes across. Definitely problematic.

As for the story beyond the ethics (although I amn’t convinced they are particularly separable), it’s entirely implausible, but mostly holds itself together, apart from the last couple of chapters, which are entirely too rushed and try to wrap things up, and set up an immediate (guessing here, since I haven’t even begun it) sequel all at once.

For my liking too many of the characters are entirely dense (especially Jane — I mentioned the racism already, but the sexism is laid on pretty thickly as well), so why do I enjoy the story at all?

235. Up the Attic Stairs by Angela Bull

Another nostalgia reread, about an interconnected but shifting network of women – young, old, and middling – based around a town and in particular two houses within that town, across eighty years and several generations. Three contemporary (the book was published in 1989) student flatmates start a fundraising project that leads to them researching the lives, loves, clothes and struggles personal and political of their predecessors, forcing them to confront their own memories and aspirations. It sounds very worthy, and I amn’t sure what draws me to it, but I keep returning to it every couple of years. It’s long out of print, but isn’t that long, so is worth keeping an eye out for. Sexism in this one is a very acknowledged topic, it being a Virago Press title.

Niccolo Rising chapter 11. I lived on the edge of the old part of Geneva for a year, and I’m trying to work out what the city would have been like around 1460. I think I probably had a better time there than Claes did, anyhow.

Unexpected speakers

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Sorry for the delay in this post (and for the shadow on the image — this was the most legible picture), but I wanted to finish the first filet piece of the tablecloth to show you. Appropriate, no? I’m still working on the flower motifs, but those are small and easily transportable, whereas I think I’ll do the flat filet work all in one piece, so I’ll do it at home. That’s what will gain me the size, as well.

I think I’ll do a picture next, as I’d like to separate the different text phrases from each other.

I’m enjoying being away on holiday, even though I’m back in the house I grew up in! My mother and I went to a ‘Day Spa’, on Friday, with a package including massage, manicure, pedicure and facial – the first time I’d done any of those. It was a really fun day (but very expensive) and I shall now have to try finding the time and money to repeat at least part of the experience.

231. The Fantastic Flying Journey by Gerald Durrell

I think I might have got this when I was a little older than the intended readership, but I’ve always enjoyed it anyhow. I think Durrell’s autobiographical accounts of his animal expiditions, as well as his family and friends are hilarious, but this isn’t trying to be funny, specifically (although there some very funny parts) but a gentle adventure story for children, where Emma, Ivan & Conrad’s eccentric Great-Uncle Lancelot turns up at their house one day in his balloon to whisk them away on a rescue mission that involves travelling around the world meeting (and talking to) fantastic animals. The book is wonderfully illustrated by Graham Percy, and well worth getting your hands on.

232. Watership Down by Richard Adams

I had remembered that there were ‘spiritual’ elements to this book, but not how much of a rabbit world is created and explained, nor how graphic some of what happens (or is described) is. This is an epic adventure in the classic style.

233. March by Geraldine Brooks

Reading this now made sense, having just recently completed rereading Little Women (with Craftlit). I still amn’t sure how much the LW connection matters to this story; I think it is a plausible account of what could be the background to Alcott’s characters, and yet I amn’t sure it’s the one I will have in the back of my mind for them.

As for the book’s own merits: I think it’s good, and thought-provoking, and satisfying in many ways, although it left me on edge. I think it might not have left me that way had I not been trying to reconcile it to my sense of LW, of course…

Now I’m considering rereading some other books I have about the American Civil War.

Niccolo Rising chapter 10 includes Tobie and Julius discussing Claes, and I still can’t work out (after how many rereads of the whole series?) where they’re both coming from, how honest they’re being, and how much they believe each other.

Making use

Friday, 15 August 2008

No new picture today, I’m afraid, but I have done another motif or two on the tablecloth. I’ve also printed out some filet patterns to play with. In fact they are meant as cross stitch patterns, but will do just as well for filet, as only one colour is needed.

There are several free online generators of text patterns for cross stitch, but I would recommend two in particular. Celtic Cross Stitch allows you to type in a word or phrase (excluding accented letters and punctuation), then gives a Jpeg image which you can save or print directly of that word or phrase in Celtic lettering. Stitchpoint is much more flexible, with four fonts available, as well as accents and punctuation, and the option to build in line breaks, but I could not see how to save the resulting image, only print it directly, and it is rather slower, since the text cannot be typed in by keyboard, but each letter and piece of punctuation has to be clicked on separately.

I’m planning on interspersing my words and phrases (food and guest related) with pretty pictures, for which I’ll use charts meant for filet work, as most of the cross stitch ones I have seen expect a variety of colours to be available. I haven’t really begun looking for those online, although I know there are a lot out there.

I’ve had no excuse for not continuing with Niccolo Rising in the last couple of posts, even through I didn’t bring my copy, since my mother introduced me to the books, and has all of them… So, chapter 9: In which we learn a whole lot more about child-parental relationships.

Social Flowering

Thursday, 14 August 2008

I got a couple more motifs done today (and yes, it does appear that I’ve got two different shades/dye lots going, but I’m hoping it won’t be too noticeable in the end). My wise mother pointed out that the 3D qualities of Irish crochet (which I really like) are not so well suited to providing an even surface for plates and platters, so I think the filet work I’m also planning for this cloth will have to be the main parts across the actual table, while the thicker motifs will adorn the skirt section, in a wide border. I’ll continue working my way through the book for the motifs, and then I’ll get to planning my filet work.

I’m continue to be glad I’ve signed up for the RSS feed of Librivox‘ newly completed works, as there’s plenty of good stuff coming through. (Obviously I only download what strikes my fancy.) I’ve just listened to a romantic comedy set in First World War London (written in 1918), which is a lot of fun, and less improbable than many of its genre/period.

230. Patricia Brent, Spinster by Herbert Jenkins

Patricia, at 24 proud (if lonely) being a working spinster, is piqued to overhear her fellow boarders pitying her as an old maid of 27, and gets herself in a scrape (I’m picking up the lingo) by proclaiming to the household that she’s off to meet her fiance, panicking when she realises she’s been followed and precipitating rather a lot of people’s feelings!

Add ten years to Patricia’s age, and the story could almost work nowadays, but it doesn’t need to for the gentle humour to win through. The lone reader is good, and does dialogue and expression well (major points for me, as you may have noticed from my regular comments on the matter). English is not her native tongue, as can be told from some of the pronunciations, but this is a minor issue, and should not detract from the tale.

Homeward Happiness

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

I’m back in Dublin (I travelled overnight, and crocheted along the way – I’ve brought my orange cotton, and the book I got last time I was over here, Irish Crochet Lace by Eithne d’Arcy)
Orange Irish crochet motifs
and Luna came along and met some of the teddies who first travelled with me.

Teddy and Big Bear told her about all our trips when I was really little.

Then, when they’d given her their seal of approval, she met the rest of the home gang:
Teddies Galore!
Clockwise from left, these are Scottie Terry, Monkey, Dog, Big Bear, Luna, Teddy, Don and Puppy. (No, I wasn’t very creative in my naming practices when I was very little. Scottie Terry, Don (from Oxford) and obviously Luna are more recent friends.)

Luna even got a horseback ride. (Once upon a time, my mother knitted the saddle blanket.)
Luna on horseback

Have I mentioned before that my mother is still wonderful, even though she doesn’t knit for my toys anymore? She is:
Opal sock yarn, plus oiled flint stone
I’ve been wanting to play with some self-striping sock yarn (I hadn’t even told her so) and she’s got me three balls, which should be plenty to experiment with. She also got me this beautiful oiled flint stone, which feels great in the hands.


Monday, 11 August 2008

Tisha B’av is over for another year (although we still have a few hours of official mourning) and I spent most of the day in my synagogue, where I could get an appropriate atmosphere and lots of inspiration. I did read an appropriate book while I was at home, and actually finished it (I know I haven’t been doing much of that lately). I’m planning on doing some crocheting tomorrow too, which should be fun.

229. The Kingdom Didn’t Fall by Meir Baram

This is the story of two boys/young men (the main fictional characters) from outside Jerusalem who end up there among those defending it from the besieging Romans. There is no secret that they will ultimately be overcome, and the city and the Temple (the Second) be destroyed – which is much of what we mourn on Tisha B’av, the anniversary of the destructions of both temples, as well as several other tragedies of Jewish history – but it’s a well done recounting, which clarified some things for me (an overview of the sources used is given in the introduction, and then they are listed chapter by chapter at the end of the book) and is  very readable as a novel. It’s aimed at younger readers, but that never stops me.

Unfortunately I can’t link you to it, as the only reference I can find online is riddled with inaccuracies, so I don’t see the point. Tvuna Publishers put it out in 1989, without an ISBN, so it would appear to be well out of print, I’m afraid.