Thursday, April 30, 2009


A couple observations made during recent travel...

-The 1980s revival in popular culture is definitely here. The songs, references, and style pepper films, and today's pop music definitely leans that way. Flo Rida has scored a hit with "Right Round", which heavily cribs from a 1984 Dead or Alive chart topper. The difference: yesterday's songs sounded like robots were playing the music; today's sound like robots are singing.

-I was almost completely ignorant of the news of the day while at the film festival, so this swine flu stuff caught me unaware when I first heard it. It's funny how I could go about the day without worrying about PANDEMIC!!!!! until I was bombarded with doomsayers at every turn. (Honestly, I'm not that concerned.)

The news folk, particularly those on TV, need to get off their high horses about the swine flu story. I caught one piece talking about how dangerous Twitter is in spreading bad information, whether through jokes or misinformed comments, about the virus. Umm, maybe Twitter isn't as big of a problem as news reports and stories that prey on the public's concern.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Gratefulness for the wish never granted

If I haven't said it here before, I will say it now: in retrospect I was very lucky when I finished college and did not get a job doing what I wanted to do. I wanted to work in radio, first in an on-air capacity and eventually as a program director. I think I would have or could have been good at it, an immodest statement that's hard for me to write, but it's not where life led me. Thank God for that.

I used the shotgun approach to send tapes and résumés across the country, but the best I could do was land a single interview. I was offered that one full-time job, a peanuts-paying gig that would have relieved my initial post-college anxiety, but turned it down because it didn't feel like the right situation...and the salary was insultingly low. For nearly two years I continued to search, although I can't remember how much of that time I was actually looking for radio work. Probably less and less as time passed.

Perhaps deep down I knew I wasn't cut out for the crap that goes along with it. I am not the life of the party. There's a good chance I may not even be at the party. More importantly, I was determined not to be phony, whether in the form of giving opinions I didn't believe, condescending to base impulses, or compromising who I am. My image would be who I felt reflected me, not an alternate me in scare quotes. For instance, years later I did some unpaid film critic work on the radio and pulled the plug on one recurring morning show appearance because I didn't care for the tone of the program and what they wanted me to be.

I was reminded of my feelings about the industry's demands when I read the thoughts of a Cincinnati sportswriter, who also hosted an AM sports talk show, about being unceremoniously canned by the station. He expresses a lot of the criticisms I have, especially of that station in particular, which trafficks in self-righteous outrage and faux populism. I will listen from time to time because it's where I can hear about the Reds and the Bengals even if the manner of the discussion inflames me.

All these years later I suppose there's still a lot of that Holden Caulfield phoniness fighter in me. I co-host a television show, now in its thirteenth year, and I feel that who people see on that program is basically who I am. I try to be conversational, but I don't dumb myself down either. I hope that people understand that my earnestness and rigorousness are signs of respect for the audience and not displays of arrogance. For the time being I'm also filling in once every two weeks to gather and deliver the news. It's a chance for me to realize my lofty ideal of what the news should be rather than what it often is.

I must acknowledge that I do not have any commercial concerns (ratings, advertisers, etc.) in either of these endeavors, although I don't think I'm doing anything unconventional, except possibly by the standards of what businesses say is successful.

Miraculously, I am doing something in the vicinity of what I wanted to do at the age of 21. Frankly, though, I fell into a position that is a lot better than what I desired and more in tune with what I think is important. We've all heard be careful what you wish for. Sometimes things have a weird way of working out when those wishes aren't granted.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009


This is what it looks like when I don't have anything to say today.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Round and round

I have no idea how this antique circular sock machine works, but I thought it was kind of interesting to see this method of knitting being practiced.

Sorry, that's all I have today.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Checking out

Random thoughts from the road...

-The hotel room alarm clock that does not allow the guest to change the time and date, even when both are wrong, and which the management does not know how to make correct has to say something about modern life.

-The clocks at Red Roof Inn must run ten minutes faster than the rest of the world's. They've been (and are) my hotel of choice during film festivals, and I don't really have any complaints. That said, I've been pushing it regarding how much sleep I can get, so wake up calls that come ten minutes early add insult to injury.

-Note to self: turning on the fan at night helps cover up the sounds of cars on the nearby interstate.

-Maybe it's more the exhaustion that comes from attending the film festival, but I swear I sleep harder in a hotel than I do at home. That is, when I'm not waking up every half hour as morning approaches because I'm afraid I'll sleep in late.

-Getting up early to write festival coverage rather than staying up late to do it makes a lot more sense, at least at the event I just left.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Hide and go seek

This morning I had a few panicked minutes when I could not find my wallet. For the life of me I didn't know why it wasn't in the pants I wore the day before. I remembered when and where I had last taken it out, but it should have gone right back in the pocket.

Ordinarily losing one's wallet would not be a good thing, but seeing as I am three hundred miles from home, the prospect of having no money and no identification was even more problematic.

While I searched in the hotel room, where I was certain the wallet had to be, I started going over scenarios for what I could do if I was unable to locate it. Check with lost and found at the theater even if I seriously doubt the wallet fell out there. A branch of my bank is across the street from the theater, so perhaps they can give me a hand if I can't locate it. (My biggest concerns were being able to eat and having enough gas to get home.)

It turns out that my wallet had slipped out of the pants pocket and among other clothes in the suitcase. Being able to come up with an alternate plan was somewhat reassuring. I'm just glad I didn't have to implement it.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Up top

Another festival day, another push to write my coverage elsewhere and find a few hours for some sleep. I'd really hoped to be getting more rest than I am, but I am getting the "work" done. I'm sort of proud of that accomplishment even if the text is banged out against a nonexistent but internal deadline and may or may not be worthwhile.

I thought I'd share the picture above to provide an idea of where I'm spending a significant portion of these five days. I'm one of those festivalgoers lurking in the balcony. I think this level provides a superior viewing experience, but there's also something of an Upstairs, Downstairs self-selecting quality that I can't exactly put my finger on to describe.

The movies have been good--mostly--and the weather has been really pleasant. It's nice to think that spring may finally be here and the heavier coats can be put away for awhile when I return home.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Quick hits

I did not get enough sleep last night and probably won't this evening, so today's entry from the road will be brief.

I've been vigilant in keeping my eyes searching for the stop lights posted at the sides of the road. I haven't run any red lights. Believe me, there are times it takes my full powers of concentration to look for them because I don't encounter them on a daily basis.

Due to Twitter and my desire to post text and photo updates via my phone, I have slowly become aware of all the things it can do. Prior to this I was lucky to have added people to the address book.

I did see someone knitting at the film festival audience today. I might have struck up a conversation except she was working on a fun fur scarf. I'm not being a snob. (Well, at least not in this instance.) I just don't have anything to say regarding that particular yarn.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Typing as fast as I can

I'm coming to you from Champaign, Illinois while I attend a film festival, so if you're looking for substance over the next few days, your likely bet for it is at my film site or, quite possibly, on Twitter. Those in-the-know or ingenious enough will know where to find these things. (Yes, my effort to compartmentalize myself and keep this site separate remains.)

I awoke around 7:00 a.m., hit the road around 8:10, and arrived two states west four and a half hours later. (No stops!) I arrived in town with plenty of time and even checked into the hotel before noon, if you can believe it. There was no local yarn shop visiting this year, although I know where to find them and the chain stores if necessary. One of the nice things about having come to this event for several years in a row is that I have a reasonably good handle on where things are around town. Plus, there's no stress when it comes to determining when to be at places or where to park.

There is one thing, though, that preoccupies my thoughts while I'm behind the wheel. Look extra hard for the stop lights! Many of them in downtown are to the side of the road and not above and in the middle. If I don't remind myself of this constantly, I swear I'd plow right through them as oblivious as can be.

So far the weather is gorgeous, at least while the sun is out. (It turns pretty chilly after dark.) It might seem silly to care what the weather is like since I'll be inside watching movies, although not in as high of numbers as I did in Cleveland. Traditionally the weather has been pretty lousy during this event. One year my shoes were still soaked the next morning after standing in line to enter the theater the previous night.

Everything's off to a good start here. Now to turn in for some precious sleep.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009


The Stanley Cup Playoffs came to Columbus for the first time ever tonight. Sure, the Detroit Red Wings were already up on the hometown Blue Jackets two games to none, and anyone taking an objective view knew that the series was probably already over. Still, I wanted to believe.

So did the 19,000+ inside roaring support for the Jackets. Unfortunately, Detroit scored a goal 67 seconds into the game and never looked back. A second goal shortly before the end of the first period cast a pall over the place. While the fans would pipe up until the end, everyone knew that the game was basically over then. The Red Wings are too good and too experienced--they're the defending Stanley Cup champs--to allow the plucky underdogs a comeback.

Was it fun? At times. The excitement leading up to the game, even with the dashed hopes of the first two entries in the series, was enjoyable, and the all-too-brief action before the Jackets fell behind was a sip of what fans of this historically unsuccessful team have wanted for years. OK, so I got more pleasure out of the knowledge that I had a ticket to the first home playoff game in franchise history than I did from the play on the ice, but that's sports for you.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Busy week

Things are about to get really busy for me, which means that the chances of me writing about my knitting over the next seven days are low. I'm attending the Blue Jackets playoff game tomorrow night and leaving town for a film festival the following morning. The good news is that I'll actually be doing something/going somewhere and might have an interesting anecdote or two to write about.

I hoped that I might have a "real" entry--and a surprise one at that--because of one of the film fest's guests. I could have sworn that actress Vera Farmiga was on the initial list of attendees, but her name wasn't on it the last time I looked. Although there would be no guarantee that I might get the chance to ask her a few questions, such an opportunity is more common at this event. Of course, being there is kind of important.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Rise of the machines

The Columbus-based writer of the web comic Toothpaste For Dinner featured a knitting-oriented strip the other day.

That's why it's better to knit something yourself rather than leave it to a machine.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

High fidelity

Independent music retailers--record stores, in other words--are going the way of the dinosaurs. Why bother going out of the way to a local shop to get a CD when an online store doesn't require leaving the house and the big box store is just up the street? (Or, for some, why bother buying music on physical media or paying for it at all?) Plus, either of those places are likely selling the music for less anyway.

Today is Record Store Day. The day is intended to celebrate music and get people out to support these shops. It's a noble attempt to save places I don't want to see disappear, but as with newspapers, I wonder if fighting to keep record stores relevant is a losing battle.

In my formative years as a music fan the record store was king because it was the place to find the CDs or vinyl that the big corporate retailers didn't stock. The selection was greater. These were the places to go to make special orders, find import and out of print discs, and take a chance on something because you could pay less for a used copy.

In high school it wasn't unusual for my friends and me to spend the better part of a weekend day or evening perusing the racks at Gem City Records, CD Connection, and Second Time Around, among others. At college I found a small local shop within walking distance of campus and was already well aware of the big record stores near Ohio State: Magnolia Thunderpussy, Used Kids Records, and Singing Dog Records, most notably. Shops like Wuxtry Records in Athens, Georgia; Waterloo Records in Austin, Texas; Newbury Comics in Boston; and Amoeba Music in San Francisco were mentioned reverently in rock magazines and considered musts if ever in those towns. (I've been to Waterloo a couple times and have one of their t-shirts. I've been to Athens once briefly, but the closest I made it to Wuxtry was their shop in Decatur.)

As romantic as the record stores may have appeared, what with stacks upon stacks of discs amid the rock poster plastered walls, they could also be places of great unease. Record store employees and owners can be some of the most judgmental people you'll ever willfully give money to. I stopped going to the local shop near my college because I tired of the owner's peering eyes while I browsed and withering critiques of my purchases.

Big box retailers like Best Buy and Circuit City didn't do any favors to the independent stores. They carried some of the stuff that the indie shops specialized in and undercut them on prices. These monoliths may have weakened the record store business, but the internet will probably be what finishes off all but the stoutest. When music e-tailers came on the scene, just about anything you could want was available and didn't require meeting the record store clerk's approval.

I still drop by the Columbus shops from time to time, and when I go out of town I try to visit a local record store or two just like knitters will seek out local yarn shops. It's not the same as it used to be, but there's always the promise of finding some treasure I didn't know was awaiting me.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Knit to the beat

Director Michel Gondry's films and music video work express a love for the handcrafted, so I'm not surprised to stumble upon a short he made that is all about yarn and knitting. Check out the impressive music video for Steriogram's "Walkie Talkie Man" to see the creative ways the needlecraft and fiber are used.

Artist Lauri Faggioni collaborated with Gondry on the video. Some of her other artwork can be seen here.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

The losing tradition

I've been a sports fan for as long as I can remember, and I've been lucky to have my teams win or be in the mix for championships a few times. I've watched my favorite baseball team win a World Series and attended a men's college basketball national title game victory by my alma mater. Although they came up short, I've watched my favorite football team compete in two thrilling Super Bowls.

More often than not as a fan, though, I've witnessed a lot of losing. The Reds have made the postseason just two times (1990, 1995) since I've been old enough to remember. (I was alive for most of The Big Red Machine's glory days of the '70s, but I was too young to notice.) There have been the insults to injury in strike years--the best record in baseball but no playoff berth in 1981; in first place in 1994, the year of the canceled postseason. There was the failure to clinch a playoff spot in the last series of the 1999 season and the loss in the wild card tiebreaker game. To add to the heartbreak, I had playoff tickets in hand that year.

Despite their legendary ineptitude as a franchise, the Bengals have qualified for the postseason five times in that same period. Of course, they also had fourteen consecutive seasons with a non-winning record, and in 2005, their first winning season and playoff appearance since 1990, their starting quarterback had his knee blown out in the first offensive series. So much for the wait of a decade and a half.

Then there's the Blue Jackets. Until this season they had never had a winning season and were the only active NHL team never to qualify for the playoffs. Granted, they don't have the history of my other teams--the club's inaugural season was 2000-2001--and I don't have the history with them. This is only the third season I've seriously followed them, but again, I've seen plenty of lousy games.

Anyway, you can imagine that I was excited to watch their first playoff game tonight and am pumped up to know I'll be attending their first home playoff game on Tuesday. (It's killing me that I'll be out of town at a film festival when one--and hopefully two--playoff games will be played.) In my adult life there have been precious few postseason games for my teams.

Tonight's first period was thrilling but scoreless. The second was tense and started to dredge up that "here we go again" feeling. The third brought the familiar resignation and acknowledgment that the worst fears would be realized.

I wonder, half-seriously, if experiencing all that losing as a fan exacts a toll and colors worldview. Doesn't it indirectly reinforce that one's hopes will be dashed and efforts will be unsuccessful? I can't say but it might explain some things.

In sports there's always the next game and, if necessary, the next season. I suppose that taking it a day at a time no matter what the previous one brought is the only way to approach life too. Perhaps there's no rational reason to be hopeful, but holding out for the promise of what might be to come is important.

(For what it's worth, I didn't intend to sound so beaten down in this post. I'm OK. Really.)


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What's up

Turns out the owner of the newest local yarn shop in town is also the co-author of a new knitting book (see the second item). I've not seen or read Pints & Purls: Portable Projects for the Social Knitter, but I pass it along for your information. Actually, I only bring it up so that I have something here today.

You may be wondering why the site of late has become a mini knitting news service rather than being about my own knitting. The sad truth of the matter is that I haven't knit in ages. It's not that I'm stopping or don't enjoy it or anything like that. Simply put, I haven't felt like I've had the time for it. Part of it could be that I'm not really jazzed about what I'm working on--or not working on--and don't have the slightest idea what to do next, but the time crunch is the main thing.

So yes, I know I'm being boring and whatnot. I imagine the lull will turn around one of these days, although going out of town next week probably doesn't mean any sea change in my knitting activity for the next week and a half. Time will tell.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

In the hall

Stitch N' Pitch has made it all the way to the Baseball Hall of Fame. OK, so it's just for a day, but how often can you go to a sports shrine and find needle arts being practiced and displayed?

With that news it's as good a time as any to remind knitters about Stitch N' Pitch for this season. I don't know that I'll necessarily go to one of the events this year--last year's in Cincinnati was underwhelming--but it might be worth checking out whether you're in a Major League or minor league town.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Attention media

Repeat after me.

Knitting is not crocheting. Knitting is not sewing. The terms do not mean the same thing.

The Early Show on CBS recently did a segment on the supposed health benefits of knitting. Of course, for much of the piece the key across the bottom of the screen asks, "Can you crochet your cares away?" If that's not bad enough, one of the interviewees, vaguely identified as the founder of Behavioral Associates, says, "People who sew on a regular basis do have drops in physiological mechanisms like blood pressure."

This is the third media report I've found in the past week that freely substitutes the crafts for one another. As a writer, member of the media, and knitter, this sort of carelessness drives me up the wall.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Not what I had in mind

Today's events--and by "events" I mean insignificant things that are stereotypical blog fodder that I didn't intend to write about--didn't go as planned. The clock radio went off at the proper time, or so I'm guessing, but for some reason the volume was turned down all the way. I still made it to church on time, but that's because I think I woke up at least once an hour after 6 a.m.

At the end of the day I was trying to get rid of standing water in the garbage disposal side of my sink. (I haven't used that appliance any time recently, so if you're wondering if I put something down it that I shouldn't have, no.) I kept dumping more of the drain cleaner down it as I'd come back and see that the level wasn't any lower than before. I ended up emptying the whole bottle without any noticeable result. After bailing out that side, accidentally spot bleaching my clothes,-and using the rest of my paper towels (and then napkins and toilet paper) to soak up the water-gel mixture that was in the sink, I've come to the conclusion that the disposal must not be working. (A flip of the switch just yields a hum.)

Neither of these things were the main event. I'd seen a recipe in the newspaper for a glazed ham that I thought I'd try. I didn't plan on doing the glazing part, but the primary preparation in the slow cooker sounded good. I prepped the meat and was ready to eat when it finished eight hours later. I thought it looked very colorless for ham. A quick taste proved it to be pork. Seems that the person at the meat counter sold me the wrong thing. The receipt says it was ham, but that's not what I pulled out of the crock pot. Unless I'm just not open to the idea, I don't think this was an Easter miracle.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Radio, Rocca, and Ravelry

On the way home from an exasperating trip to two grocery stores--remind me not to do that shopping on a Saturday morning again--I was listening to the NPR quiz show Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! What should I hear but talk of knitting and a mention of Ravelry.

It seems that panelist Mo Rocca said something uncomplimentary about handmade sweaters a couple weeks ago on the show. You can imagine how knitters might respond to such a comment.

The healing began with the episode that aired today. (To hear the segment in question, click on "Panel Round Two".) Some Ravelers made the comedian a sweater and presented it to him after the taping. For a full rundown on the brouhaha, check out this Chicago Public Radio blog entry.

(And yes, yet again a non-knitter writing about knitting uses the term crochet interchangeably.)

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Friday, April 10, 2009

The new knitting

Have you heard? Knitting is no longer the hot new trend. No, the latest thing--the new knitting--is caking. You might know "caking" as baking cakes. (Seriously, has language become so cumbersome that we can't just say cake baking? Or is this a common British term?)

I'm always suspicious of press releases like this that try to declare broad movements out of possibly inconsequential data. For example, the study states that 34% of those in the UK under the age of 25 describe baking cakes as sexy and trendy. Sexy? Really? This is just someone's way of trying to sell more baking supplies, right?

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

In the news

The earthquake that hit Italy brings about the story of a 98-year-old woman who kept herself occupied by knitting while trapped underneath rubble. Or was it crochet? One article uses the terms interchangeably.

This piece about making the best of what's available is nowhere near as serious. Have any of you cut up plastic bags to knit into tote bags? I'm slightly curious to give it a try, but common sense tells me that this is probably more aggravation than it's worth.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Design and adaptation

(Photo courtesy Nancy D.)

Remember my Cincinnati Reds design experiment? I haven't taken it any further because I haven't figured out how to do color work. But someone did.

About two weeks ago Nancy D. sent an e-mail thanking me for posting the pattern I cobbled together. She'd found it in a web search, and it met her needs, more or less. The Reds' wishbone C was intended to be used for a dishcloth, but she was going to adapt my work into a sweater for her five-year-old daughter's doll.

I was thrilled to hear that my pattern would be of use to anyone other than myself. Now that I'm hip to knitPro, I could probably tweak the design to be a little truer to the logo, but what I wrote isn't bad, especially for a first designing effort. On Opening Day, appropriately enough, I received news that the pattern worked and the above picture to prove it. How cool is that?

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Not your typical knit formalwear

If the movies have taught me anything, it is that prom is The Most Important Thing Ever. Perhaps the things that aren't perfect in life would be if I'd just managed to go. Honestly, I didn't care then and don't regret it now, but I know that some would find it tragic that I didn't attend one of the so-called defining moments of the teenage years.

Of course, I realize that prom is a big deal to many. Inevitably around this time of year there's at least one story about creative prom wear circulating in the national media. 2009's pick has a knitting connection: a knitted duct tape prom dress.

I can't imagine such a garment would be comfortable or practical to wear, but obviously that's not the point of making it. Good for her. I can't imagine the time investment it would take.

It seems like I've heard other stories of duct tape prom dresses and/or tuxedos and for good reason. One brand of duct tape runs a contest that rewards such creative endeavors with scholarship money. Beats writing an essay.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

Visitor gray

This day always has the potential to be one of the best days in sports. The NCAA Division I basketball championship finishes the season. Major League Baseball begins. (Nope, I'm not counting the Sunday night game.)

Until the Reds made it even more difficult (or expensive) to obtain Opening Day tickets, recent years saw me making the trek to Cincinnati to get spring's first taste of baseball. The weather may be lousy--it usually is--but the festive atmosphere at the ballpark and in the city sort of compensates for it. Viewing at home or work isn't quite the same, yet I was excited at the office while I dodged any news of the score so I could remain blissfully unaware of what would happen once I was home and could watch the recorded game.

Whether I have an NCAA pool title and the attendant bucks on the line or not--as a matter of fact, my title repeat hinged on the outcome--the big game is the big game. I can do without the announcer platitudes and tongue bath they give the prestige programs--precious North Carolina in particular--but that's all part of the price of being a sports fan. Storylines must be created, kowtowing must be done to certain schools, and it all must mean more than just a game. Whatever. Just play.

That both events happen on the same day is a happy accident. When both fall flat, as happened today, it feels like a bigger disappointment. The Reds played ineffectively and boringly in a loss. My desired outcome for the basketball game wasn't reached, and the game was about as uninteresting as they come. Even the skies were overcast, and temperatures dropped into the 30s.

That's OK. My ticket for the first Columbus Blue Jackets home playoff game ever came in the mail today. They just better not blow it this week and miss the postseason.


Sunday, April 05, 2009

That's not knitting

There's a very nice story here about the women who make blankets for foster kids, but don't pay attention to the knitting references because everything on display is sewn. Maybe the woman who began the program was knitting when the idea came to her, but these blankets aren't made with knits and purls, despite what the piece says.

The video is more informative than the text below it, but the written piece makes the most egregious errors in regard to the type of crafting involved. Call it the difference between television and print, if you will, but the newspaper article identifies what's being done as sewing.

To my central Ohio readers who know their way around sewing machines, this organization is in the area and might be worth looking into.

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Saturday, April 04, 2009

Sticks and sports cars

Since I've only been knitting for a little over two years, I may be behind the times when it comes to discovering unusual knitted items. Maybe you've already seen the knitted Ferrari, but it was new to me.

The artist's website has some other pictures and a construction video. And think, it only took twelve miles of yarn!

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Festival express

I know there's some curiosity about my recent exercise in moviegoing by seeing 44 films in eight days at the festival--not the most I've done, I don't think--so I thought now would be a good opportunity to share some insights about the experience.

First of all, I think it's taken me until today to recover completely. Keep in mind that I didn't attend eight straight days but four on, two off, and four on. With sessions beginning as early as 9:15 a.m. and lasting until nearly 2 a.m., one can spend almost an entire day seeing nothing but movies. I wouldn't recommend it, but the option exists.

One of the most common questions I get when telling people I've done this is, "Is it fun?" I wouldn't be putting myself through it if I weren't deriving some pleasure from the practice. I'd liken it to distance running. If you get little to nothing out of a voluntary activity, I can't imagine doing it, especially when it requires pushing one's limits.

I enjoy getting to see good films that may take months to come to town, if they ever make it. I like the discovery process of rifling through the festival guide to find what I hope are the gems and being surprised and pleased when I come upon them. Getting away from home for a short bit is also welcome. Really, that's enough.

It's inevitable that I see a fair number of mediocrities and a few real stinkers, but it comes with the territory. Yes, it's tiring, and yes, I can reach my breaking points. I've had films that I've probably slept through as much as I've seen, and there are times when the experience can feel confining. Nevertheless, there's always the promise of something better just an hour or two later. Never mind the critic designation; as a cinephile, that's the driving force. Something potentially good or great awaits with each new film.

The other most common question is, "How do you keep them all straight/how do you remember what each of the films is about?" This question sort of confuses me because each film is usually different enough from the others that they don't blur together. I may also be wired for retaining a lot of information because I will remember more than is probably typical. At the festival I will take notes to get my thoughts and reactions down so that I don't risk losing them. My specific responses are what I'm more likely to forget than plot points and such.

Since I'm credentialed, I have open access to anything I want to see. Passholders are given top priority for seating, so I don't have to fight the masses to get a seat. Except in a couple of rare cases I got the exact seat I wanted--on the aisle in the back on the lefthand side--every time. Both of these aspects make the festival less stressful. With a seat claimed I spend less time waiting in line to get in and have a few extra minutes to go to the restroom, get something to eat, or glimpse the outside.

Much of what I saw at the festival won't ever come across your radar, but a couple of the best films I saw are also higher profile (comparatively speaking). Sugar is one of the best baseball films I've seen, in part because it reveals an untold but crucial story of how a Latin American player might move through the system. Moon is a science fiction mindbender with Sam Rockwell that I won't say much about because it's best experienced with little foreknowledge. The former opened in New York and Los Angeles today. The latter debuts in June.

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Those who can't do

At some point in time those in higher education, particularly at the collegiate level, have probably heard the saying, "Those who can't do, teach." I am not a professor, although my work involves instructing students, which perhaps makes me even more representative of the maxim's accepted wisdom.

The thinking goes that if you're not making a living practicing the skills you're imparting to others, then you're probably not good enough to cut it in that field as a professional. While I'm sure many of us can think of individuals for whom this is true, I argue that it is fallacious in most cases, not to mention insulting.

I've felt and feel such judgment even if it isn't always verbalized. Sometimes it is the students; sometimes it's my own doubt. While I know this pithily expressed but half-cocked theory is just something to brush off, a dismissal of my work is difficult to take lightly.

Granted, my job is unique in that I "do" what I am teaching, but the naysayer's response would be that I'm not performing in the competitive marketplace but within the safe environs of education.

This term I've taken it upon myself to do one of the same field-related tasks that we ask our students to fulfill. I'm doing it not because I want to prove myself but because we lack sufficient volunteers to fill all the roles. It's unfortunate that we can't always get enough students to do what they're paying a lot of money to do, but I'm hoping to make the best of it.

I want to demonstrate that my co-workers and I are not requesting too much of them despite some protestations. I want to learn if there might be advice I can give by going through the process. OK, fine, I suppose if I'm being honest, I want to show them that I know what I'm doing.

Today I threw myself into the work. I picked up a tip or two that hadn't occurred to me before. I accomplished quite a bit. I am setting an example within the grasp of the dedicated students. More than anything, though, my competitive spirit reveled in the knowledge that I'm going to prove that I'm not in my job because I'm a failure.

I realize that this last part isn't for them so much as it is for me. I feel like a fraud from time to time, and while deep down I probably know such sentiments are false, it doesn't hurt to be able to disprove them occasionally.

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Now that's a needle

Oh look, it's another story about how knitting is gaining in popularity due to the economy. Well, it is one of those stories and isn't. The story begins that way, but then it transitions into something else.

Apparently there's a shop in the Cleveland area that sells enormous needles and crochet hooks. We're talking US 35s and 50s.

It's too bad that the only picture on the site showing someone holding the needles is in the big stitch knitting header. Photos of the tools on their own don't convey how huge these things are. Almost the size of baseball bats? Inconceivable!

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