Thursday, July 31, 2008

The opposite of going away

Two days into my stay-at-home vacation I have a cleaner, more organized (but not finished) apartment and little else to show for all this time. I don't know that it's such a bad thing, and God knows I haven't been working on straightening up all day. For instance, this afternoon I took a nap while the Major League Baseball trade deadline show droned on in the background.

It's been quite the contrast to the past week, though. While visiting my parents and brothers I was around someone else practically every minute of the day. Yesterday and today I've had little contact with anyone. It was nice to drop by the new (as far as I know) location for knit night and briefly interact with others before splitting to catch the two films showing as part of the Kubrick retrospective. (And the barbecue, while not my beloved City Barbecue, was awfully good.)

All of these off days have seemed longer, which isn't a bad thing. I might actually get some stuff done that I've been wanting to accomplish. Time will tell.

Also, following up on yesterday's post, the rebel knitter/crafter articles keep on coming...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Rebel yell

If I haven't said so before, the articles that play up knitting as rebellion can be a bit much or overstate the case, but this recent piece in The Guardian makes the best argument I've come across in support of the idea.

Now I've always felt a little rebellious as a knitter, but that has more to do with the societal expectations I feel like I'm challenging. I didn't take it up as a provocation, but I'm aware that my knitting in public can attract attention regardless. For that matter, I am still the secret knitter, which would suggest that perhaps there's something that could be seen as disreputable about this thing called knitting.

Now that I'm a few months shy of two years as a knitter I can see that the subculture is something those outside of it can't fully understand. That probably feeds the rebellious feeling among knitters, that they know about this wonderful thing that many other people are oblivious to.

I'm amused by what Knitta does. It's remarkable that their knitted tagging might be considered a subversive act worthy of police attention, although who knows if there's really a need for lookouts while they do their thing.

What do you think? Is knitting rebellious? How does it make you feel?

Addendum: This article was part of an entire section and has a Ravelry thread already in progress. Shows what my memory's been like the past couple days. I had read the first page of the thread and forgotten about this until seeing it again now.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Work, work, work

After the past week you might be wondering if this is a knitting blog since I haven't been talking about it. Truth is that I haven't knitted in at least a week because I've been trapped in that vicious circle of trying to get as much work done as possible so I can take some time off, taking said time off but remaining busy with family, and then catching up on what came up while I was out and trying to take care of everything else before I'm out for a longer period of time.

My extra-long, too-much-banked-vacation-time-initiated break, which will be interrupted at least on August 5 and 19, is set to begin tomorrow. After thrashing away at stuff today, I throw my hands up in despair and accept the fact that there's more work to be done, even if I do the bulk of it at home. I'm not thrilled about it, but it is what it is.

With three and a half weeks of time off (with those occasional disruptions) staring me in the face and no planned out-of-town trips except for going to a Radiohead concert near Cleveland, I am going to try to treat these days at home as though I am on vacation.

I realize the inherent strangeness in what I'm saying. If I have the time off, I am on vacation. What I mean, though, is more along the lines of "going on holiday" (for which I can't think of an analagous American expression. I'm not traveling, but I'm going to try to do the equivalent from home. So goes a tortured paragraph in trying to avoid using the neologism "staycation".

Knitting is on the mental checklist of things to do, so hopefully I'll get back to a main thrust of this blog before long. Probably not tomorrow, mind you. I've needed to get the apartment in order for awhile, and I'm putting that task first so it's out of the way. I expect I'll probably do some work work too. The earlier I can get that monkey off my back, the better. I know that the point of going on vacation is not working, but that's how it is in these times.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Little pink houses

This was a travel day and return to work day for me, but for illustrative purposes I snapped a few remaining photos in Indiana before three hours on the road.

I never particularly thought of the state being much different from Ohio. It isn't, really. Still, most of the time I've spent in Indiana has been in the central eastern part, so it's a given that things were similar due to not wandering far off the east-west interstate. Having hung out in northern Indiana for the better part of a week, one of the main differences I detected was more nasality in speaking voices. Hey, I wasn't doing sociological research or anything, so that's all this expedition yielded.

Since I was driving mostly on state routes, I passed through several villages, towns, and cities, each one looking more or less like the last. This alternate landscape wasn't bombarded with visions of fast food restaurants, gas stations, and hotels looming at nearby exits but a good share of Dollar Generals, Wal-Marts, and beer and pop drive-thrus. Traffic was minimal, with only one or two cars nearby for any significant periods. It was nice and relaxing during the day, but I imagine the blackness would have felt like it stretched on forever at night.

As surprising as it is for me to do the math, for about half of my life I've now lived in the suburbs, whose borders are blurred if noticeable at all. (The first half was in a village.) It seems so foreign to me now to pass through or stay in these self-contained towns, even if they're not terribly far from somewhere with a moderate population size. I have a hard time comprehending life in a single stoplight municipality, let alone those field-buffered burgs who only announce themselves by dropping the speed limit by twenty miles per hour as you whiz through them in thirty to sixty seconds.

I do have affection for older towns, like the one where my brothers live, with at least some semblance of uptown and downtown. I don't know that they spend any time in the town square pictured above, but to me it's at least indicative of some vibrancy or community stature. It's not just a place to be passed through.

On my way out of town I stopped at an independent coffee shop near this square. It was a cozy little environment where I'd bet the staff knows the names of regulars, yet it seemed roomy and modern enough to provide a taste of the big city for those not wanting to feel like they're stuck in the sticks. Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with the sticks. I just don't know that it's where I permanently belong these days.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Fraternal order

As the oldest, I've known my brothers for their entire lives. Certainly there are significant gaps--time I've been and they've away at college and beyond--and those have tended to be at the most formative moments. After all, those college and post-college years are usually when most people become who they are.

My two youngest brothers have lived in this area (more or less) since they finished college. I'd only been over here once. That was a number of years ago and before the youngest relocated here. (In other words, I'd never been to his home.) My three youngest brothers all went to the same university. Some of those academic years overlapped, and they majored in a similar field, although they each went different directions within it.

So, I think it's fair to say that they know one another better than I know them. They have more in common, certainly in terms of interests and philosophy, and more shared experiences. I don't necessarily feel like I'm on the outside looking in, although it is true to an extent.

Visiting them where they live these past two days has been somewhat enlightening, although the youngest is as mystifying as ever. (I don't think I'm alone there.) I can see that good housekeeping is not something that runs in the family, at least among brothers. My place is probably on par with the youngest's in terms of orderliness and is definitely better than the others. I'm not making a value judgment--it seems very much in keeping with the engineer/tinkerer mindset--but yeah, it could stand to be neater.

Anyway, it's been interesting to notice how they are and compare them with myself. We all have strong opinions, curiosity for knowledge, and independent and introverted streaks. Personality-wise I suppose we're fairly similar even within the differences. Considering we were raised together, that makes sense.

Our tastes are different, which is to be expected as those are things we have more control over than our home environment as children. The interest and preferences I have in music, film, etc. is not something they share to the same degree. From what I can tell, they don't seem to have searched out the interesting places around the hometown they've adopted. (For instance, trying to tap their awareness of good local restaurants is nearly a fruitless endeavor.) They seem content to stay at home most of the time, something I've come to value more in recent years but which has always been true about me even if I was keeping busy and out of my apartment.

Getting a better sense of where they live--both in geographic terms and at the homestead--and observing the places where they work, play, and worship is probably far more revealing than they (or any of us) would ever acknowledge about the personally created environments that are taken for granted. It is a privilege to be shown these things, whether hosts or guests realize it.

If anything, perhaps the experience will make me less judgmental about decisions they've made that I wouldn't and vice versa. Sure, I want the best for them and have opinions about how they could better achieve it, but I better remember that such a path is a two-way street. Overall, they seem happy with how things are. Isn't that what should be most important?

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

A change of scenery

This vacation, or whatever it is, has been scheduled very loosely, which I suppose leaves room for plenty of improvisation as needed. My dad had to leave for something or other yesterday, and my mom needed to go to church camp for a week beginning today. Little did I know that I'd end up taking her there. Friday we discovered that her car's brakes need to have the pads and rotors replaced.

So to camp we went. I dropped her off and then played dog chauffeur as my parents' schnoodle rode shotgun on the way to where my brothers live near Fort Wayne. I was going to write more, but I'm about ready to fall asleep at the keyboard. Instead, a quick recap of the rest of the day...

Another minor league baseball game was on tap, this time with the host Fort Wayne Wizards. Their newsworthy opponent, the Peoria Chiefs, did not fire any balls into the stands and knock unsuspecting fans unconscious.

The only seats left at the box office were in the last section of bleachers by the Peoria bullpen. Apparently this was also the section for leaving your kids unattended and letting them run up, down, and through the bleachers, not to mention playing on and hanging off the railings in front of the seats and in the middle of the stairs. As someone who is single and childless, I know I have no room to speak, but seriously... Not only were the kids a major nuisance, but they also were one misstep away from a major injury that would surely have a lawsuit aimed at the team. Parents, I know you can do better than letting your kids run rampant like this and not doing a thing about it.

And then there were fireworks.

Sorry for running out of steam so quickly tonight, but I don't know that you're missing any big insights.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Where the heart is

When I think of home, I think of the place where I grew up. My parents moved at the end of 2000 and again at the end of 2006. Ever since that first relocation I've resisted saying that I'm going home whenever I'm to visit them. Instead I'll mention that I'm going where my parents are. After all, their out of state residence isn't home because I lack any connection or roots to the place. It's merely a house where family lives. Maybe that's a weird differentiation to make. Maybe it isn't.

Staying at my parents' for a few days has been like being a tourist in some regards. They've felt more of a need to entertain me or show me around than surely would have been the case if they were still at my childhood home. This is only the second time I've been here and the first non-holiday stop I've made, so I suppose I'm still in an acclimation period.

They're far enough away from where I'm from that there can be a bit of a disconnect in seeing what's around, hearing how people talk, and noticing all the small local details that differ slightly but significantly from the familiar to be a little jarring. It isn't culture shock but trying to figure out how these people I'm with got planted in this new environment.

Perhaps it is easier to feel like I'm at home when I can bring my own with me via a connection to the internet and an iPod that carries a substantial portion of my music collection. My parents have satellite television, so I can watch the Reds games just as I could if they lived where I called home as a kid and where I live now. Things that used to be limited to an area or were not as portable can now be accessed from or toted to practically anywhere on the planet.

While home is a physical location, it is also a state of mind constructed by the people one is around. This place, some three hours or so from where I was raised, will never be home in a geographic sense, but I've come to realize that it is the more enduring kind of home. In the end, isn't that what matters most?

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Art and chocolate

It's hard for me to consider myself on vacation since all I've done is take a short week at work and visited my parents. Nevertheless, I am on vacation, be it a mini one recognized by me or not. After all, when can you get up, do your daily exercise, eat breakfast, and take a nap by 10:30 a.m.?

In today's edition of getting to know Michiana, we went to the South Bend Regional Museum of Art. True to its name, it's a small place showcasing artists from the area (for the most part). I can't say that I saw anything earth-shaking, but there were some nice pieces that made it worth a short stroll through the museum. I wasn't crazy about a couple of the installation pieces or the contemporary exhibition but whatever.

After a drive around the Notre Dame campus and a spotting of Touchdown Jesus we went to The South Bend Chocolate Company. The business offers a free tour, although by the time we went on it the workers were done for the day. Our guide pointed out where everything is done and demonstrated what they do, but the process was pretty much left to the imagination. Free samples, though!

The solid Easter Bunny pictured above is around three feet tall and costs a whopping $350. I don't imagine they sell many of them. I purchased dark chocolate turtles that I am willing myself not to eat all of them in one fell swoop.

I saw some of South Bend my last time here, and I can't say that what I viewed was especially cheery. I saw a lot of the rundown areas where closed factories have been sitting empty for years. My impression was that this is a former industrial town that never recovered from the loss of business.

Today I got a better look at downtown, which has been restored and renovated to look quite nice. Obviously the area around Notre Dame has flourished. Although the rotting and rusting factories are a significant component of South Bend, I was relieved to see that the city has more going for it than an abandoned past.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Take to the road

Gas prices may be high, but it's time to hit the road anyway. Driving across central and northwest Ohio on my way to Michiana, I saw many things. On a two lane state route slicing through farmland I most memorably observed a semi truck jackknifing behind me. The rear trailer tore through the ditch, but somehow the driver corrected course and disaster was averted. I wasn't thisclose, but I was close enough to be given a good scare. It looked like something out of the movies, aside from being more real than I would have cared to experience.

As I passed farmhouse after farmhouse, I noticed that the fields looked nice and green for this time of year. Occasionally I'd glide through a small town with no stoplights. There to my left is what looks to be a small family graveyard. To my right is a sign advertising Harold's Haunted Cornfield.

This was the first time I was driving a more direct route to my parents' home. (Now that they've been here more than a year, I suppose I can't call it new, even if I've only been here one time previously.) Online maps from AAA, Yahoo, and Google each suggested different directions. (In contention was how/when to reach Route 30.)

Google's took around twenty fewer miles but predicted a twenty minutes of longer travel time. I rolled the dice on their directions and think they win the prize, at least for driving in non-inclement weather. Plus, I made the trip in about thirty minutes less than anticipated--and using the more fuel-efficient cruise control set to the legal speed--so it would seem that I chose well.

I stopped in Warsaw, Indiana for a late lunch at Schoop's Hamburgers, the shiny diner pictured at the top of this post. I was half tempted to ask my waitress what she thought about American Teen, a documentary that follows a year in the life of students here, but decided against it.

I've been especially careful of late about what I eat, so I was quite surprised (and a little self-questioning) to see the enormous burger in a basket that was delivered to my table with a side of onion rings and a cherry Coke made the old-fashioned way. Healthy diet be damned for one meal at least. This really hit the spot.

I continued west, passing the self-pick fields, mostly for blueberries from what the signs indicated, and before I knew it, I was at my parents'. As I mentioned above, I was using cruise control as much as possible. I almost never turned it on, but I'd read that it can help stretch a tank in these fuel-conscious times. It made a small but noticeable difference. The big change for me was how much easier the four hours of driving were. I was in less of a hurry. I didn't have to worry about a speeding ticket since I was set at or just a hair above the limit. When it comes to cruise control, I have seen the light.

This evening my dad and I went to see the Class A South Bend Silver Hawks play the Beloit Snappers. True to minor league baseball form, there were abundant wacky promotions. It was Hug Your Plumber Night and Mustache Awareness Night, so attendees were treated to free plungers and fake mustaches. My freebie is named The Scoundrel.

The weather couldn't have been better. After sweating it out in 90+ temperatures at the Stitch N' Pitch game, it was wonderful to watch a game while it never reached higher than the mid-70s.

Not that it particularly mattered to me, but the hometown Hawks, an Arizona Diamondbacks affiliate, won the game. Being just three rows from the field and very close to home plate, I thought I might leave the game with a foul ball. To tell the truth, I'm glad none came near me. Chances are I'd also have received a ticket to the hospital for a broken hand or dental restoration.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In pictures

Fire up those high speed connections; it's a photo day. I took these for no good reason while walking to and around Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati for Stitch N' Pitch.

The top picture was taken at Sawyer Point along the Cincinnati riverfront. The guy underneath the arch was playing an acoustic guitar and singing a song that was really familiar, but I couldn't place it. Then I figured out that it was "Way Back Into Love" from Music and Lyrics. Can't say I expected to ever hear that one.

For some reason this apartment building reminded me of the cover for Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Memory's a funny thing. They don't look at all alike.

Hot day, free pool (as far as I know).

Like I said, I'm not why some of these shots caught my fancy, but as you can see, the Ohio River is not too high.

You can see in the distance that the riverfront on the Newport, Kentucky side is more developed.

Presumably a garbage scow on the Ohio.

Views of downtown Cincinnati from outside the stadium.

There's something very pleasingly geometric about this building. It looks like it's missing a Tetris piece.

TV sitcom viewers ought to recognize one of the buildings here.

I've been busy packing five days of work into two so I can take some time off. I have nothing left, so hopefully this did the trick.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

New York state of mind

New York Dishcloth

Yarn: Lily The Original Sugar'n Cream (100% cotton; worsted weight)
Color: Delft blue
Needles: US 7s
Stitches: 37

Since this item has made it to its destination, I can now unveil it here without hiding it behind a link. One part of what I owe for the Pay It Forward exchange down...

Did you hear the Marketplace piece about knitting and yarn shops? Knitting is so passé now, if you didn't know.

In my view the report is built on two faulty premises. For instance, here's part of the anchor's intro: "But now it looks like the fad has passed, because those still in the market for needles and yarn are buying most of their wares online." Wait a minute, if people are still buying, how does a shift to online purchases suggest that knitting is no longer trendy? In mathematical terms, both sides of this equation are not equal.

There's also a coastal bias in the piece. Well, this California town had both of its yarn shops close! And this shop that does most of its business online attracts clients from New York City who are just too busy to go to a physical location!

Now I'll grant that the reporter likely isn't saying that two Davis, California yarn shops are a bellwether for the industry and hobby's health. Who's to say if the business plans were feasible at these stores? I'd be more convinced of the reporter's thesis if she included some hard numbers revealing the growth and closure rates of local yarn shops. As it is, this seems very anecdotal. If you quoted Ravelry's explosive growth, you could probably file a story saying that knitting is as popular as ever.

I suppose I'm also suspicious of stories that need to declare something's time has passed. Sure, it's reasonable to believe that some who picked up knitting when it was the hot hobby have moved on to something else, but should the focus be on the trendoids who do what's fashionable for a brief time or those who do something because they enjoy it and aren't trying to make statements?

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Stitch N' Pitch

Stitch N' Pitch is so popular that in Cincinnati the game sold out. On second thought, brisk ticket sales might have had something to do with it being Reds Hall of Fame induction night. Although The Big Red Machine member César Gerónimo was among the inductees, the attraction for many of the fans had to be the honoring of hometown hero Barry Larkin. Yeah, that's probably a better explanation for the packed house.

I was expecting something along the lines of Sticks N Stitches--a section of knitters and a bag of swag--but when I took my seat down the left field line shortly after the gates opened, there was no sight of anything knitting-related. Granted, I arrived early, and I suspect most people didn't want to bake under a glaring sun beaming down a temperature in the low nineties. I did have some knitting with me but didn't bother doing any. I wanted to watch batting practice, and the heat wasn't conducive to knitting anyway. The bright sun did make the red decorating the stadium pop like the colors on HDTV. Beautiful day...but a scorcher.

I had anticipated needing to explain why I had knitting needles and scissors in my messenger bag, but the security person's cursory check didn't even spot them. My planner fell under light suspicion, as I was asked to unzip it to show what it was.

As attendees slowly filtered into the section and knitters were conspicuously absent, I began to wonder if I was near the main event. I could have sworn that when I first looked at Stitch N' Pitch tickets that they were in a similar section down the right field line. Had I been relegated to an outlying area for waiting until six days before the game to buy a ticket?

Eventually some knitters began taking seats, but the majority of the people around me were not there for Stitch N' Pitch. (I suppose I should take this time to mention that unlike some of the knitters present, my primary interest was watching the game, not having it as background for working on a project.) I overheard a couple knitters mention that they had gone all around the stadium in search of the knitting swag that each of us was supposed to get, but they couldn't find anyone who knew about it. Something tells me that the free Reds hat handed out to the first 20,000 through the gates wasn't what they had in mind.

Free stuff would have been nice, but I think the bigger complaint from Stitch N' Pitchers was the random disbursement of knitters. When I went to the Sticks N Stitches event, the knitters were condensed into one section with a few random stragglers ending up there unaware of it. At this Stitch N' Pitch game, the knitters were intermingled among the crowd and frequently asked to explain what was going on. If you went to socialize with other knitters, chances are you were limited to doing so with those who came with you.

The non-knitters, particularly middle-aged men, seemed both amused and bemused by the knitting taking place during the game. Plenty of jokes were made, although generally it seemed to be good-natured. Even if I had wanted to knit or had felt comfortable enough to do so, I can't imagine knitting while at a baseball game. The evidence may have proven otherwise, but we were in a prime section for foul balls and wicked line drives.

If it sounds like I'm complaining, I'm not. I was happy to go to a game for half price, which eased the cost of driving to Cincinnati and back, and to see my team win. (I'd gone almost two years between visits to the ballpark and watching them claim victory.) The event could have been better organized, although I understand the difficulty of setting aside seats for a game where they ended up selling standing room tickets. As far as I know, there was no point person other than someone in the ticket office, which makes me appreciate LittleWit's Sticks N Stitches efforts all the more.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

From the stretch

Through the magic of backdating I'm writing this entry on Saturday night when I was actually about halfway home going north on Interstate 71. For you see, today was the Cincinnati Reds Stitch N' Pitch.

I'm too beat to do a proper write-up of the even tonight, so I present a photo of the 4192 mural on the back of the Great American Ball Park scoreboard. The mural showing the record-breaking bat and ball is the team's way of honoring Pete Rose (and, in my opinion, thumbing its nose at Major League Baseball) while observing the all-time hit king's continued banishment from the game.

Rose is a sore point for me as a lifelong Reds fan. He's still a beloved figure by much of the fan base and understandably so, but I wish they'd drop the illusion that he's a martyr. By now it seems pretty apparent that he did indeed bet on baseball while managing the Reds--something strictly verboten, if you're unaware--and is willing to change his story for whatever it can earn him. The hard-nosed player known as Charlie Hustle for his go-for-broke style still deserves the nickname, but it's for the other meaning of hustle.

Anyway, I'm getting off track. I just wanted to provide context for the picture as it's probably not something you see in stadium shots on television. I'll have a Stitch N' Pitch recap on Sunday.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

A contest featuring human beings

So I think I have finally figured out what the deal is with Ravelympics 2008. I'm still not entirely sure if it's a competition or a friendly game promoting knitting and community or both, and I certainly don't know what event to enter. But no matter...

I'll have plenty of time to knit as, except for a day or two to prep and tape my show, I intend to be on vacation for the duration of the Beijing Olympics. That said, I don't want to obligate myself to doing something that will take a lot of work as I want to watch the Summer Games. As you know, I'm pretty much incapable of knitting without looking at the project.

Although I recently purchased more cotton for dishcloths to make and give away, I will admit that I'm getting really tired of knitting items to be used for wiping dirty things. Decisions will be need to be made. If only inspiration would strike and resolve it all.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cable ready

I appreciate the suggestions and opinions about whether to knit cables with or without a cable needle (or an amalgamation of both methods). If there's one thing I've learned about knitting, it is to sample the wisdom of others. I know there's been a fair number of pixels devoted to how the internet has given a boost to knitting. Rightly so. The collective knowledge and wider community make it easier to get advice.

I don't know that my experiment without a cable needles provided a fair assessment of the technique because after I stopped knitting for the night I realized that I was using one US 6 and one US 5. I grabbed the needles thinking I had two of the same size. Umm, no. That would explain why some of the stitches were harder to work on.

So I've not ruled out going cable needle-less and will employ the trick to keep the momentarily slipped stitches safe. I fear that I may be too much of a klutz or not stout enough of heart when it comes to doing it on a "real" project but we'll see.

I am curious to try the suggestion of putting the stitches on the cable needle back on the regular needle when the time to knit them comes. The problem I foresee in this scenario is that those stitches are really tight and don't have much room for any needle, so they may not want to go back.

Still, the fact that I'm not freaked out by cables any longer is a win in its own right.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Vorsprung durch Technik

For the past month or so I've been making a concerted effort to eat better and exercise regularly. I had been good about it for awhile, but six to nine months ago I broke the good habits and resumed some bad ones, namely being less discriminating in what I ate and not exercising. Naturally, I put some weight back on that I'd worked hard to lose. I've been tired of carrying it around, so it's back to the grindstone.

At least five times a week I've tried to walk around the neighborhood for an hour. If my pace is anything like what it used to be, I estimate that I cover four miles in that time. It's all level, so there's not much to it other than putting one foot in front of the other again and again and again. I can tell a difference more in how I feel moreso than in appearance, although the weight loss is starting to become a little more noticeable to the naked eye. Feeling better makes me wonder how I stopped doing this in the first place. (Well, I know why...a lot of work stress, lack of time, etc.)

Finally I feel like I'm at the point where the food cravings have settled down, which should help too. Water consumption has increased a lot while drinking pop has dropped substantially. (Those kidney stones sure have me focused on staying hydrated.) I'm really curious to see how the latest addition to my routine affects things. It took a lot of effort to locate one, but I finally found and purchased Wii Fit. (If you don't know, it is is notoriously hard to find in stock.)

I took the balance board for a spin this afternoon and certainly worked up a sweat. On the plus side, Wii Fit provides immediate feedback and tracks your progress. It also gets the internal competitiveness firing, especially if and when you don't perform well at some of the games. I don't think it's probably recommended as one's sole form of exercise, but it looks to be a wonderful complement to a routine.

On the downside (or maybe it's a positive), the game alters the look of your Mii to reflect your body mass index. At least it doesn't change the optimistic hairline I've bestowed to my digital avatar. Then again, it's just another way--negative reinforcement--of encouraging exercise.

In the thirty minutes of exercise time I learned that I have terrible balance. No surprise. I'm interested to see what the results are as I continue to exercise and play this game.

When I lost weight before, I didn't weigh myself once. I figured it would be discouraging. I'm changing my mind now that I have the Wii Fit. It's silly but I want to show the machine that I can drop the weight. (With it you can't fool yourself through selective reading of the scales.) While the number I saw displayed wasn't where I would like it to be, it reinforced that what I've done for the last month has worked. I've lost a decent amount already. Now it's time to show the Wii who's the boss.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Slanted and enchanted

Under the influence of commenters, I've tried cables sans cable needle. I think I'm doing it properly, for the most part. I botched a left slanting cable before attempting the new technique--it now slants right--so I can't say for sure what's up.

Actually, now that I look at it again, it appears that I've switched the slants on both sides. I'll take that to mean I'm slipping the stitches the wrong way on each of those sides and just need to flip what I'm doing to get them leaning the direction they're supposed to. I have a few more repeats left for experimentation, so we'll see what gets produced.

The nice thing about this project is that it's a quick trial and error knit that will leave me with a decent enough FO. It's taught what I need to know about cables...or what I think I need to know about cables.

I haven't determined a preference knitting cables with or without the cable needle. Certainly it's less awkward without, but I don't know if I have the constitution to leave a couple stitches sitting there off the needle and trying to get them back on. At this point I also have to pause to remember exactly what I'm supposed to be doing when using this technique.

Using the cable needle saves the breath-holding and removes the questions of how I need to slip the stitches. On the other hand, I've had trouble knitting the stitches on the cable needle, and the blasted thing gets in the way.


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Monday, July 14, 2008

Cable installation

A common thread through much of my knitting education is that something seems difficult or impossible and turns out to be not as hard as I expected. Cables were definitely imposing. Putting such embellishments on projects was for other knitters, not me. I can't do that. They look so complicated...but apparently they're not.

Oh, I'm having some trouble knitting off the cable needle, especially when it's held to the back of the work, but the fact that I've been able to do it at all is a victory. This is one of those techniques that I figured would be beyond anything I'm capable of doing (like, say, knitting a garment that fits or seaming something without looking like I was extremely intoxicated).

Finding a good spot for the cable needle so it isn't in the way can be a challenge, but if that's the worst I have to put up with, I think I can manage. I picked an easy dishcloth pattern, conveniently named "easy cabled dishcloth", and should have an FO in no time. It's going to be smallish, but the point in knitting this was to practice cables, not making something. (That's just a benefit on the side.)

Now for the questions... How can I make it easier to knit stitches on the cable needle? I have a very small, tight space in which to do this, particularly when the stitches are in back. I'm guessing that it shouldn't be this tough. Any recommendations for how to keep the cable needle out of the way?

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

In these hands

Last week really knocked me off my game, so I'm looking for some equilibrium this week. I finally got to one of the projects I owe for the Pay It Forward exchange. Wouldn't you know it? I cranked through it all today.

Since the recipient may come across this, I'm posting a link to a photo of the FO, which said person should not follow, and will type up the details once it's in her hands. To put a finer point on it, looking at it before it arrives is like sneaking into mom and dad's closet to see your Christmas presents early, Amanda.

I've been knitting long enough that it can be second nature to me (sometimes), but I still have moments when the needles feel strange in my hands. It happened again today. Granted, I hadn't knitted in a week, but the awkwardness didn't manifest itself until resuming the project after setting it aside for awhile.

The best I can determine is that for some reason I was helping slide the old stitch off the needle with my right index finger, which isn't typical, rather than letting the left do all the work. The way I was holding the needles felt weird, but I couldn't figure out why that was or how to remedy it. The next time I picked them up all was well again. Does this happen to anyone else?

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Rubber soul

Although it presents a daunting task--and one laden with rampant second guessing--picking a favorite album from every year you've been alive provides a fun excuse to dig through one's collection.

Pinning down release years is another matter, though. iTunes has wrong information, allmusic seems to go by the country where the album first came out (which is fair enough), and the CDs themselves may have reissue dates rather than the original. I've tried to be as accurate as possible.

The criteria for inclusion included being subject to whim, a favorite at the time, and a favorite now. (Obviously I wasn't rocking out to Led Zeppelin just out of the womb.) Picking albums from the 1990s to now became harder as the pools were larger. I tried to stick to what I was listening to a lot at the time, but I didn't always. I also attempted to keep multiple records from the same artist from appearing, but you'll see that I couldn't hold myself to that.

Working with college students can keep you young. I'd venture to say that I'm more plugged into the music scene than a fair number of them and have some more adventurous tastes. It can also make you feel older than your age. The thought that Achtung Baby and Nirvana's Nevermind, albums that came out during my freshman year of college, are as old now as David Bowie's Diamond Dogs and other classic rock albums that seemed of a generation far removed from my own.

Suffice it to say that I'd probably change some of these a minute after pressing "publish post". For all I know there are big omissions simply because I haven't ripped the CDs in question to my hard drive. Whatever the case, I'm going with these selections...for now. So as not to bore you with a list, I've included commentary where I felt like I had something to say.

1973: Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy

1974: Big Star Radio City

1975: Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here

1976: Electric Light Orchestra A New World Record

Disclaimer: I've never heard this album. I had a lot of trouble finding something from 1976. I know and love several songs from this, so the ELO album was the best I could do.

1977: Billy Joel The Stranger

1978: The Cars The Cars

1979: The Clash London Calling

1980: Billy Joel Glass Houses

1981: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Hard Promises

1982: Bruce Springsteen Nebraska

1983: The Police Synchronicity

1984: R.E.M. Reckoning

1985: John Cougar Mellencamp Scarecrow

1986: Crowded House Crowded House

1987: U2 The Joshua Tree

1988: Midnight Oil Diesel and Dust

It seems pretty remarkable that an album and band as steeped in politics--and Australian politics, no less--as Midnight Oil made a dent in the U.S., but their fiery brand of message and melody was an eye-opener for someone who grew up in the age of Reagan. Granted, I didn't hear this album until a few years later, but the hook-laden "Beds are Burning" snagged me when I heard it on Top 40 radio in '88.

1989: Tom Petty Full Moon Fever

About as close to perfection as a pop/rock record can get to these ears. Closer "Zombie Zoo" may be a little silly even for Petty and not quite the equal of everything that precedes it, but the straightforward simplicity of this timeless smash and the humor--how about that break he takes on the CD to recognize those listening on vinyl and cassette?--make it a great feel-good record.

1990: The La's The La's

I was heavily into a Beatles phase and crazy for anything described as Beatlesesque. I recall reading about this in a magazine that reviewed new CDs--and just CDs, if memory serves--at a friend's house. The right comparisons were made, and I tried to get in on the ground floor of a possible next Beatles. Of course it didn't happen, and the band didn't put out a second album. Still, it's a nice bit of Britpop. You've probably heard one of their songs, even if it was the Sixpence None the Richer cover.

1991: U2 Achtung Baby

1992: R.E.M. Automatic for the People

1993: Counting Crows August and Everything After

I was music director at the college radio station in 1993, so it's no surprise that my shortlist for this year was the longest of any. I was listening to a lot of music, watching the charts in Radio and Records, taping 120 Minutes, and reading plenty of other stuff. I lost interest in Counting Crows about ten years ago, but I feel pretty safe in saying that this was my favorite album of the year at the time and is still one I like.

1994: Jeff Buckley Grace

1995: Guided by Voices Alien Lanes

1996: Belle & Sebastian Tigermilk

At the time the first B&S album was notoriously difficult to find, although word of its genius was all over a Guided by Voices e-mail discussion list I was subscribed to. Through the list I obtained a cassette tape copy from, of all people, a guy who was a Nightline producer. Thus I was introduced to one of my favorite bands.

As a side note, I had to go to the public library to check my Columbus freenet account (via telnet) to read those e-mails. It was text-only, and the freenet permitted only two hours of access to your e-mail per 24 hours. Ancient history, I know.

1997: Radiohead OK Computer

1998: Neutral Milk Hotel In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

Another GBV mailing list discovery and one of the stranger albums in my collection then and now. Entirely unheard, I bought this based on those raves. (Remember, listening to music online still wasn't easy or common then.) I've been surprised to see how this album's legend has increased over the years, but I suppose word gets around among music fans much more rapidly these days.

1999: The Flaming Lips The Soft Bulletin

2000: Spoon Girls Can Tell

2001: Beulah The Coast is Never Clear

2002: Kelly Willis Easy

I could have just as well put Neko Case's Blacklisted or Laura Cantrell's Not the Tremblin' Kind here, although I had to get a Kelly Willis album on here somewhere. Perhaps the peak of my phase.

2003: The New Pornographers Electric Version

2004: The Arcade Fire Funeral

2005: Sufjan Stevens Illinois

2006: The Pipettes We Are the Pipettes

Relentlessly catchy to the point where I had hunted down the entire UK album and several rarities more than a year before the remixed American release reached stores.

2007: Jens Lekman Night Falls Over Kortedala

2008: The Raconteurs Consolers of the Lonely

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Unit shifter

It's been an exceptionally busy and tiring week, so rather than grind out a post in my muddled mental state, I'll tell you that I'm working on my version of picking an album for each year of my life for tomorrow. The meme is too long for everyone to play along in the comments, but if you'd like to do the same, leave a link to your blog entry.

And with today's meager daily blogging contribution met, I think it's time to hit the hay...


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Summertime rolls

Perhaps I've uncovered ample incentive to take some much-needed time off. While looking over my last pay stubs from the last few months, I noticed that my vacation hours had ceased increasing. (Strangely, my accrued sick time reduced from a very large amount to almost nothing.) I called human resources and didn't get an answer to the questions--I must speak to someone in payroll--but I learned that banked vacation hours are capped at eight weeks. I would have gone over that a couple months ago, except they stopped adding new hours to all the days I already have set aside.

I can hear my father nagging me on this one, so yes, I probably should have been paying closer attention to this (although a heads-up from HR would have been nice) and if I've lost some vacation days, why complain when I should be glad that I get them as a benefit.

I'm not going to be able to talk to someone about it until next week, but I conceived out a plan in my head as I worked on my farmer's tan while exercising underneath the hot afternoon sun. I don't imagine that the business office will give those lost days back to me, but I expect my boss won't mind if I "use" them by working shorter weeks for the rest of July. Then I'll take two to three weeks off in August and get under the cap so I'm not losing any more hours.

Honestly, the idea sounds wonderful to me. I don't have a clue what I'd do with all of those free days, but as cranky as I feel like I've been posting here, I'm sure I could use it. (Then again, I always feel like I come off as aloof or grumpy, so I don't know that it's a recent phenomenon.) I don't give myself enough time off and would probably benefit from a lighter load for the next month or so.

Considering I haven't seen any family members since Christmas, I thought I might visit my parents, but it sounds like they're on the run for most of that time. Instead I suspect I'll probably sit at home, watch TV, knit, read, go out for some exercise, and that's about it. Not the most exciting plans, but I could use a break, even if circumstances seem to be imposing a lengthier one than I would have planned to take.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008


All right, I may have had an irrational freakout about market bag patterns, although I'm still not convinced, especially with the handles and the drawstring. Did I mention handles?

It may have something to do with the two knitting needle holders in need of finishing that, for almost a year, have been buried like the tell-tale heart, except I haven't cut them into pieces or anything so rash. But single crochet, backstitching...uh, what? Handles and drawstrings just seem like two more things to leave me with a UFO.

I'll also allow that I was (and am) really tired. When you're eating at least two meals every day at work (and three on one occasion), you know you've been there too long and too late. So I'm cranky this week, although some of this extra effort is being put into a freelance project that ought to wipe out most of the debt I'll have from that stupidly expensive kidney stones-related emergency room visit.

I'm mostly happy how that's turned out--that's a relative kind of happiness--but the last thing I needed was to be at the office for eleven-plus hours again this week. Imagine editing mind-numbing video about second graders learning how to read and practicing it. Yes, it can be as tedious as it sounds, but the money is good.

So yeah, I was grumpy and dense when I wrote last night. It's not really much different tonight either, but the ol' brain is processing a little more clearly twenty-four hours later.

And yes, I would be grateful for some help at a future knit night, although the Stanley Kubrick retrospective going on here for the next month may put the pinch on how many times I'm there in future weeks. And of course I know (or knew) how to pick up stitches from last summer's semi-successful (and semi-failure) knitting socks. Or a sock, as the case is.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Buy or sell?

So I've done a little research into market bags as a next project, and I've gotta say that I'm becoming less and less convinced. It may be my default mode of seeing something and determining I can't do it or that I'm thick after a long couple of days at the grindstone.

Take, for instance, the Everlasting Bagstopper. At first glance it seems easy enough to knit, but the questions come fast and furious. For instance, what's a wrong side row if you're knitting in garter stitch? Is it just whichever side you choose? This "turn the corner" business loses me. And, oh yeah, that seems like an awful lot of stitches to pick up, and where are they being picked up from in the first place?

But these questions have nothing on the bigger problems I foresee if I undertake this project. Handles? Sewing? DRAWSTRING?! That's enough to put the kibosh on it for me right there...except this wouldn't be unique to this market bag but all of them. (There's another option, but the directions for the handle makes my head hurt.)

I was joking yesterday with my comment about being intimidated once I looked at patterns, but I fear I know myself too well in matters such as these.

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Monday, July 07, 2008


It's been a very long "directive" day, so I present some quick hits to meet my daily blogging quota...

-So that fix to the errata that I posted with my Chevron Stripes Hand Towel? It's been on the pattern's Ravelry comment tab for months. D'oh!

-Thanks for the recommendations for Shout Color Catchers for when I wash said hand towel. I wouldn't have thought twice about throwing it in with the other colors. I know that the stereotype is that men are clueless when it comes to doing the laundry, but I manage OK and haven't ruined...much. You may have saved me when washing this item for the first time, though.

-I've determined what my next project will be, but it will not be named or described until it ends up in the recipient's hands. The deadline is nearing to complete my end of the Pay It Forward Exchange, and I need to get cracking. I expect to have this knitted item to its intended before the end of the week, so you won't be left wondering for long.

-Beyond this quick knit, I am seriously considering the recommendation to make a market bag. Assure me that it's the right choice before I look at a pattern and get spooked. :)

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Achtung baby!

Chevron Stripes Hand Towel (from Mason-Dixon Knitting)

Yarn: Knit Picks CotLin (70% Tanguis cotton, 30% linen; DK weight)
Colorways: Moroccan Red and Crème Brulee
Needles: US 5s
Stitches: 87
Size: 13" x 22.25"

It took several froggings and more than a month, but the Chevron Stripes Hand Towel is finished. I decided to knit one more repeat before polishing off this FO. I'd long ignored how long the pattern called for this to be (14" x 24"). If I'd been paying attention, I might have gone ahead and achieved the suggested length, although this is plenty big enough.

The pattern calls for knitting the 12-row repeat a total of 27 times. I stopped at 17 with this yarn. If I knitted ten more repeats, it would be folded over on the countertop and possibly creeping into the sink.

I don't think I used a skein and a half of each color, so the CotLin goes a long way with this pattern. I certainly didn't need to order three skeins of both.

The initial problem I had knitting this hand towel was with the error in the pattern and the errata published online. As best I can determine, row 6 should be k5, *k2tog, k2, kfb in next 2 sts, k3, SKP; rep from * to last 5 sts, k5. (The k5 at the beginning of the row is missing in my printing of the book. The k3 is absent in the errata online. I e-mailed about it but never received a reply or saw it fixed, so I'm posting it here as much as a reminder for me than anything.)

Although this was a frustrating knit at times, I'm very pleased with the result. Certainly it's a good example of the inefficiency of making something like this yourself versus buying something at the store, but we know that knitting isn't best subjected to cost benefit analysis.

Plus, I picked up a few tricks of the trade along the way. I learned how to knit in the front and back of the stitch. I learned SKP. I learned (again) to check the errata. In the end all of this tallies up to a success.

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

Rounding third

One of my brothers sent me a link to the Cincinnati Reds Stitch N' Pitch. I think he is amused at the idea of a bunch of knitters--me included--getting together at a ballgame. The thing he didn't know is that I was already aware of it and am probably going to go. The ticket is half off, which alleviates some of the sting in paying the price of a tank of gas to get there and back.

I've knitted while watching tonight's game on TV. The Chevron Stripes Hand Towel is almost done. It's already as long as the other hand towel I've made. I may be a bound off row away from finishing, or I might knit one more repeat. It's not a question of having enough yarn. I bought enough that I could probably make another that matches the WIP's current length. After the endurance test that has been this pattern, I don't envision duplicating it.

Whatever I decide, I'll be in the market for a new project very soon. What to knit, what to knit...

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Independence Day

Having had to work on almost every 4th of July for the last eleven years, I don't particularly see it as a holiday since it's no day off for me. (Last year was an aberration.) Usually the day unfolds like this: run 5K road race, go to work, come home sweaty and tired, sleep, wake up groggy in the early evening, hear legal and illegal fireworks going off near and far.

I skipped the race since I'm not in adequate shape for it this year. (I'm exercising again but simply not prepared for running this much.) It was too bad because the weather is rarely this kind on the holiday, if for early July that means cool with drizzling rain.

The work aspect of the day was long enough but otherwise unremarkable. I'll take it. I still came home dirty and tired, just not feeling like I'd baked in the sun, so I did continue the tradition of taking a hard nap in the late afternoon.

I didn't plan on going to any fireworks display, but around 10 p.m. I heard one and could glimpse it from my bathroom window. I decided to set out on foot to the park at the end of the street to see if I could get a better view. The grass was wet with dew and the day's rain. The smell of moisture on the grass and the lingering scent of burnt wood recalled summer camp for some reason.

As my shoes got soaked I could see fireworks lighting up a low portion of the sky ahead of me. I'm not sure why, but it was a nice vision. My distance from it made it seem like a spontaneous, informal display, which is far from the reality of these shows choreographed to music played by local radio stations.

Actually, there were two shows taking place simultaneously. Apparently I was in a position to see the efforts of two municipalities, although the one to the southeast was mostly blocked by the tree line. To the east I had a mostly clear view of the fireworks that were a bit low on the horizon. I could hear that pleasing chunk-chunk-chunk sound as they were fired. The explosive pops weren't quite as loud.

I stood in the wet grass and watched, making sure to keep my distance from the entwined couple atop a picnic table near the park's shelter and then from the adult and kids setting off their own pyrotechnics in the big green space. One of their fireworks went screaming parallel to the ground about fifty yards from me and gave me a pretty good scare. This didn't deter them from setting off more. It's always encouraging to see someone lighting something on fire and then sprinting from it yelling, "Run for your life!"

I was surprised that the fireworks show went on for nearly fifty minutes. I don't remember them being that long when I was a kid. I can't remember the last time I've gone to see fireworks on the 4th. Either I've been too tired or not had any desire to go by myself. On occasion I'd been able to walk around my old neighborhood and sort of see them. It appears that I'm privy to a better view not far from my apartment, so maybe next year I'll hoof it a little more to the east.

Happy 4th.


Thursday, July 03, 2008

Grab bag

Notes from a day working from home for a bit and then being lazy in general...

A regular work day has a whole different rhythm when you're not in the office or interacting with others. The hours seems to last longer, believe it or not, but maybe that's because I didn't get a whole lot accomplished...

In the afternoon I went out for a walk in the rain so I could squeeze in my exercise for the day. I heard an unusual bird call and scanned the area to see if I could spot it. Turns out it was a blue jay making a sound like a squeaky hinge. Either I'd never heard a blue jay (unlikely) or never given its song a second thought...

The NHL free agent market opened on Tuesday. I've been rabidly reading a Blue Jackets message board to stay on top of news and rumors of the team's moves. Ladies, you wouldn't believe the emotional fragility exhibited by the presumably male-dominated commenters over player signings or trades. Or maybe you would...

At knit night I heard that there had been a fire at Malabrigo's mill in Uruguay. Going by the message on their front page, they went almost a month without shipping anything because most of the yarn in the warehouse could not be salvaged...

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Hmm, no FOs in June, due in part to mitigating circumstances such as a seemingly endless WIP, work obligations, and kidney stones. My knitting production for the first half of the year has been less than impressive, though, so maybe those excuses don't cut it.

I've picked up a few minor tricks of the trade this year, but it's fair to say my learning curve has slowed considerably. Rechecking my 2008 knitting resolutions shows how little I've accomplished. Let's go down the list, shall we?

-Learn how to do cables.

Not a clue.

-Finish a pair of socks.

You must be joking.

-Finish the knitting needle covers.

Sigh. No.

-Learn how to read charts.

Maybe a little. Maybe.

-Design something.

I've sort of designed something, although the final version of what I want to make is languishing due to my intarsia ignorance. Which leads to...

-Figure out color work.

I kind of understand (or understood when I tried it) double knitting. I've worked with two colors on the ballband dishcloths and am using two colors on my current WIP. I can't give myself full credit, but this goal is closer to being achieved than most of these items.

-Knit a sweater.

Surely you jest.

-Blog every day.

We have a winner, although the job is just slightly more than halfway done.

-Take better care of myself.

In good conscience I don't think I can give myself passing marks here.

So, umm, the good news is that there's still about half a year to turn this around, right? Right?

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Second intermission

Yesterday I wrote about the best films I've seen so far this year. Today I turn to music or, to be more accurate, the rock and roll. And yes, the same organizational principle is at work here too.

Although it probably doesn't need to be stated upfront, let it be known that I see far more new films than hear new albums, so I'm drawing from a much smaller pool.

-Coldplay Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends: The positive reviews for Coldplay's fourth studio album have made it sort of acceptable to admit to liking the band in music circles, although I'm sure there's backlash brewing in several hipster corners of the internet. Anyway... The band has freshened up their sound--some Arcade Fire here, some My Bloody Valentine there, and still a lot of U2 and Radiohead--to make a record adventurous enough to get some haters off their case and accessible enough to keep them in contention for the mythical title of biggest band in the world. (Honestly, though, who else is in the running?) Track: "Viva La Vida"

-Kathleen Edwards Asking for Flowers: There's nothing terribly different on the third album from Canada's answer to Lucinda Williams from the previous two, but that's not such a bad thing. On an unrelated note, while searching for a track to link to, I was shocked to discover that she's made an official music video. (Never mind the question of who would show it. I haven't even heard her on the radio except for once or twice on the NPR affiliate.) It's very cringe-worthy--embarrassingly so--so ignore the visuals. Track: "The Cheapest Key" (expletive deleted version and unedited version)

-Los Campesinos! Hold On Now, Youngster: Bratty seven-piece band fond of exclamation points. Love the album title. (They should probably be listed first if I'm correctly filing in alphabetical order, but my iPod doesn't know any better. I'd wager they're under "L" in record stores too.) Track: "You! Me! Dancing!"

-The Raconteurs Consolers of the Lonely: I've listened to my share of classic rock radio, but bands making music in the vein of the 1970s titans are few and far between. I have a feeling this album would have been huge then. This brand of rock, blues, and country isn't a throwback so much as it respects the traditions from which it comes. Track: "You Don't Understand Me"

-R.E.M. Accelerate: Is this purely a blast of nostalgia or a genuinely worthy album? R.E.M. is one of my all-time favorite bands, so I have a vested interest in believing this is a return to form after Around the Sun. It certainly has more punch, but am I a sucker falling for that classic sound that's been missing? Track: "Supernatural Superserious"

-She & Him Volume One: I wrote a little about She & Him last week and don't have anything more to add. Track: "Sweet Darlin'"

-Sigur Rós Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust: I used to think I was a lyrics guy, but let's face it, I'm all about the hooks or soundscapes. In this case I'm going purely by the music since I don't speak Icelandic. Track: "Inní mér syngur vitleysingur"

-Vampire Weekend Vampire Weekend: Peppy (and preppy) pop with Afro-influenced sounds, from one of the year's most buzzed about bands. It won't change your life, but it's the right soundtrack for a summer's day or when you're trying to conjure one. Track: "M79"

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