Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Monster in the Mirror

Thinking about personality tests and quizzes and monsters and wondering if the type of monsters that resonate with a person reveal some piece of their core identity, like a shaman’s totems. Only these would be shadow totems, emblems and enablers of our dark side.

Yeah, yeah, we all know about the Goths and Vampire–pardon me–Vampyre Chic. And really, what more could you ask from your late teens/early twenties life? Sleep all day, play all night, gorgeous threads and never having to pay your way? Parasites in predator’s clothing, totally dependant upon the blood supply even as they eschew the boring little limited humans. Sound like juvenile disdain for the parents who provide food, shelter, clothing, tuition?? “I’m never going to be like them! Never going to let myself be tied down to a limiting little box for money . . . oh yeah, I need to write home and ask for some cash."

Nameless, my dear pal who reads this blog (and now I am so gonna get a thousand calls asking “Am I Nameless???") is all about communication, and ghost stories. And what is a ghost, except someone who desperately has something to say–but can’t get it across? Ghosts moan and rattle, appearing and vanishing around a fixed point, and the only way to get rid of them is to figure out what the problem is and FIX IT.

Lumpkin is into zombies. When I think of zombies, the first thing that comes to mind is drive. Zombies are the ultimate in drive. Their whole focus is getting from point A (hunger) to point B (satiety–usually on living flesh). That’s it. No quandries about what should be done, no distractions about what could be done right now (“While I’m devouring Bush, I might as well eat Souter, Cheney’s already one of us. Oooohhh–Ginsberg’s looking toothsome!”) Nope. Point A to point B in as few shambling steps as possible. Water, fire, walls--not a problem. Just stuff to pass through.

Me? I'm into devils and demons. Take what you want, do as you please, and pay for it. Ultimately powerful beings that are bound by rules of their own devising. The ultimate in OCD monsters, always checking the details, details, details. Why do you think I post once a week??? It's in the rules, just like the pentagram on the office floor that keeps me here at my desk.

And don't get me started on the angel-lovers out there. We're talking manifestations of the Divine Will. Notice that when God needs a heavy, S/He sends out an angel? The angel with the flaming sword guarding the Tree of Knowledge, the angel driving Adam and Eve out of the garden, the angel of death visiting the firstborn of Egypt? See a pattern here? Devils can be tricked; there's a whole genre of deal with the devil stories where the summoner wiggles out of the contract and avoids damnation. How many "Deal With an Angel" stories have you seen, where someone summons an angel, makes a deal, and then avoids the consequences? The negative consequences, of course--the ones where the protagonist gets gobsmacked for hijacking a henchman of the divine.

And no, I haven't touched shapeshifters--the werebeasts, the changelings. No one so far has admitted their love for the id buried within. (I can relate, I have a psyche like an M & M. Big chocolaty id, covered with a crunchy ego shell and sprayed with a glossy bright superego. Probably where I get the obsession tihe rules and such--the superego is very very thin, and washes away easily. If it gets scratched, that's it--here comes the chocolate.)

Next time, pictures. Promise. No more psychology for a while, it's too hot outside.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Artist's Statement???

I will admit to a certain fascination with elevator pitches. How do you define what you do, your vision, what makes you get out of bed and do your creative act in a handful of words?

It's easy to write a thumbnail bio. You know what will resonate with your audience--cum laude graduate from Yale; Pulitzer Prize winner; mother of five, one with autism. But when you ask yourself the hard questions--why DO I knit enormous swaths of lace? What am I trying to communicate from the non-verbal side of my head? Now say it out loud.

I don't intend at this moment to make my living knitting. I don't enjoy the sacrifices one makes for speed and novelty. When it's common to have a design accepted at last, then get three weeks to resize the design for XS to XXL and knit two samples in the yarn the manufacturer is huckstering (because what you knit has been discontinued, or is in LAST season's colors)well, I'd rather not play. That game is not worth my candle.

And I don't intend to go on the craft show circuit and sell retail or even wholesale.But the discipline of honing what I believe, the cutting away of the unnecessary to get to the heart of the matter, that moves me.

First whack:

We remember, deep in our bones, what it was to fly. Angels have swans’ wings, demons have bats’ wings, superheroes wear capes. Wrapped in fine threads of a single strand entwined, we pick up our wings once more.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

This I Believe

The stars have come right at last. All worlds come to an end.

Remember the Y2K scare? How our civilization was going to come to a crashing end when all computers were caught in recursive loops? And how it didn’t, how I am sitting at the keyboard typing this, and you are reading it off a screen, and all is well, and all manner of all things are well?

The Mayans had science and mathematics far beyond the capabilities of their contemporaries. The calculated out a calendar that extended into the modern century, hundreds of years into the future from their perspective. But then it ended, in 2002.

And then there’s the “dark sci-fi” that has so captured the modern imagination, a bleak dystopia reducing us to food for the unmentionable Powers That Be. The Matrix, for example, where man feeds machine and never knows until he takes the red pill.

But none of that’s real.

But you are so wrong.

Can you not see? Can you not understand? First, there was the population explosion. Then, global warming. We started harvesting the ocean bottoms to feed all the people. The “lemming phenomenon” reported in the news, about people swimming out to sea and not coming back. Now, the hot new Japanese fast-food chain, Zulen Akai. With Zeph, their cute chubby octopus character toddling along in overalls, hawking compressed seaweed and soybean patties.

They’re bigger than McDonalds. You can’t not hear their jingle–I’ll bet it’s playing where you are now, in a pop-up window, or a radio, or a televison set . . . or in your head, just from me mentioning it.

That’s the most insidious part. Who needs telepathic control when you have mass media?

I’m telling you, it started with Grimace at McDonalds. Then the Starbucks twin-tailed mermaid. They taught us to associate food with monsters. Now we can’t recognize danger when it’s staring us in the face.

Here, I’ll spell it out for you. We have more people on the planet than ever before. We have warmed the oceans. Who knows what beings, slumbering since the great ice age, have stirred to life as the ice around them melted and drifts of warmer waters played like soft breezes?

Could you sleep through spring? Didn’t think so. And wouldn’t you be hungry when you woke up? And what would you do if you had to convince the food to wait for you . . . to come to you and be eaten? You can’t do anything scary; you need to present yourself as one of the herd. You need to be an enticing member of the herd, in fact.

And isn’t Zeph just the cutest? Couldn’t you just . . . eat him up?

I tried to warn you. I’m just one person, without the resources of the Great Old Ones. So I’ve sent this essay in to the one place one voice might have of making a difference, here on NPR. Five hundred words, and one person’s statement of personal belief.

I just hope it’s enough.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Learning Experience

Today tastes like vanilla butter cupcakes with a chocolate ganache filling slathered with coconut buttercream frosting. So innocent to look at, all snowy white goodness. So decadent in the mouth, three-four bites of fleeting richness.

I have reached an interesting point in two projects. Tyger is all but finished, it needed some borders to be complete. Entrelac is that way, I find. The edges look raw somehow, with stitches just far enough out of alignment to trigger my inner Virgoliscitudinousness.

As you may recall, "Tyger" was started for a Project Linus contest. I decided I wanted to reflect an abstraction rather than try for picture knitting. (With few and notable exceptions, picture knitting does not work. See Mary Maxim for great views of What NOT to Do.)

I started with a tigery colored boucle and black smooth worsted in diagonal stripes, surrounded by a field of varied greens. The tiger's pelt, as seen against the foliage in passing. So I opted to continue the abstraction in the borders--a dark purple along one short edge and one long edge for "Night" and a periwinkle along the other two edges for "Day." Night will have cream-colored prairie points for the moon and stars' Day will have lemon yellow prairie points for the sun.

I am enthralled with this design. The purples look wonderful against all the green and orange. Night is dark enough to read as dark without looking weird, like part of the tiger escaped the border. Pictures and pattern to follow.

Before I tried writing an entrelac pattern, I thought they were far too wordy. It's easy to get lost in all the ink. Surely I could do it faster.

Uhm, yeah. Right. Pride goeth before prejudice, right? It's so easy to explain entrelac, holding up your fingers and drawing squares to illustrate how it goes and how you just knit one square at a time. Explain it in words, and suddenly you have an inky morass of verbiage. Sigh.

The red shawl is moving along despite a small setback. I wanted a modern Shetland lace look, withe a center square surrounded by a thick border and an edging. However, Wings of the Swan, the main feature of this shawl, looks best run lengthwise--so making an inner square and then bordering it log-cabin style was Right Out.

No problemo, thought I, I'll fake a center square by changing stitch pattern and setting it off with a border of YO, K2tog. That'll be easy to work across the top and bottom of the square. Then I'll just work YO, K2tog before and after the pattern, and Bob's my uncle.

Well, except he isn't.

See, last weekend, I got to this point in my knitting, and gleefully began working what I had charted. I write before I knit--that way, I can edit my writing as I go. Plan A doesn't work, so re-think, re-write, and rip. If Plan B works as written, you don't have to try to remember how you were speaking in tongues when you attached the border at 3:00 a.m. Wednesday night and write it down again. (Or reconstruct from fevered notes. In some ways, that's worse than reading your knitting and writing it down.)

One little tiny problem. I'd miscalculated the stitches available to play with by a bunch. And I'd written the directions poorly--I got lost trying to follow them!! Rip, rip, rip. And re-write.

Second try last night. Rocking along, having big fun as this poured off my needles. Hmmm . . . the side YO's look too big. Whazzup wit' dat??

Crapamous! Knitting stitches are WIDER than they are TALL. So the YO's on the sides every other row don't have the same thickness between holes as the YO's on the bottom between stitches. I KNEW that. I just didn't think through the effect. And I didn't swatch this idea before trying it.

You guessed it. Rip, rip, rip and re-write.

And someplace I'm gonna make a note of this; that when you want a square in the middle via changing stitch patterns, you'll want to solve it by either working two rows of faggot all around--straight across the bottom and top, and vertically up the sides OR working YO k2tog across the bottom and working YO K2tog every OTHER right side row up the sides.

Oh yeah, and you might wanna swatch, too. Do a big swatch in worsted and have another little Project Linus binkie