Non-Fiber Arts, Part II

The other event of our non-fiber-arts arts weekend was this…
Postcard for Moby Dick
The Acting Company‘s production of Orson Welles’ Moby Dick Rehearsed.

We stumbled on this performance just by luck. I often listen on-line to San Francisco’s big classical music radio station KDFC while I while I work in my office. I don’t pay it much attention, particularly not when commercials are on, but during the mutter-mutter-mutter of one commercial, I caught the words “Moby Dick.”

Now Moby Dick does not mean that much to me. I’ve never read the novel, though I do have fond memories of my family watching the Gregory Peck film version together on tv when I was a kid. (The trailer and a newsreel clip of Gregory Peck at the film’s opening on YouTube.) But Melissa loves, loves, loves the novel and is always glad to encounter new interpretations of it. So the next time I heard the mumble of commercials start up again, I actually listened.

Ten minutes and some quick on-line shopping later, Melissa and I had tickets to this production.

Orson Welles worked with Melville’s story a number of times in his life. He wrote and performed in Moby Dick Rehearsed, then did a Bristish television version of the novel (there’s speculation that this was actually a production of Moby Dick Rehearsed, but no copy of it seems to have survived), played the key role of the preacher shortly afterward in the film, and near the end of his life he’d begun filming himself reading the novel. (Clips—with Italian subtitles—on YouTube here and here.)

The central conceit of Moby Dick Rehearsed, which is set in the mid-19th Century, is that a traveling group of actors performing King Lear has been convinced by one of its members to spend an afternoon doing a reading based on the novel, which he’s taken a fancy to. The young actor plays Ishmael. The imperious actor/manager who runs the troupe takes on—of course—the role of Ahab.

The promos for the play made it sound as if the two narratives—King Lear and Moby Dick—were woven together to create a more complicated, composite text, but this really wasn’t the case. Once the troupe begins the reading of Moby Dick, they remain in these characters, until the very end of the play, when they step back out of their roles.

The acting itself felt rough as fist, the 19th Century players a group involving all the usual theatrical stereotypes: an egomaniac, a “serious” actor, an ingenue, a drunkard, and so forth. I had a hideous moment of thinking, “I laid out how much for these tickets?” Then the actors began the reading of Moby Dick, and Melissa and I were both riveted. At the moment when the actor perched atop a ladder that stood in for a crow’s nest boomed out “Thar she blows!,” I knew I’d gotten my money’s worth. The ocean was real, the whale was real, the crew were real. Ahab walked on two legs, but the cane he held in front of one of them felt as real as any more elaborate peg-leg get-up could have. The black boxes on rollers and ladders transformed back and forth between shore and ship easily.

I’m pestering Melissa now to put the film Moby Dick into her Netflix queue. I want to compare it both to this production and to my memories of seeing it forty-odd years ago.

Non-Fiber Arts, Part I

Long ago when we were young (the weekend before last, to be exact), Melissa and I took in a truly wonderful art exhibit and a very interesting play.

The exhibit, Borderlandia, at UC Berkeley’s museum of modern art, featured the works of Enrique Chagoya.
Borderlandia brochure
Chagoya’s works are explicitly political, dealing with themes of immigration and post-9/11 civil rights, and mix images drawn from indigenous and popular cultural in busy, complicated ways. We saw three distinct types of pieces at the show: large-scale painitngs, etchings drawing on Goya’s The Disasters of War (also on exhibit in the same museum), and codices.

My favorites were the codices: accordion-fold books that “read” from right to left.
This is a small picture. The actual pages are about 7″ x 10″. Imagine unfolding a book like this and spreading it out until it reaches its full length of six-to-ten feet.

And the images on each page have this sort of complexity:
We’ve got Mayan text, a modern-day super hero, a Goya-esque mouth of hell, and politically challenging questions in both Spanish and English.

You can see why Melissa and I want to return to this exhibit a few more times. The richness of Chagoya’s thinking—and, as a result, of his art—can’t be absorbed in a single viewing.

Most of his codices are one-of-a-kind and far beyond our means, but we were able to purchase a copy of the Codex Espangliensis: from Columbus to the Border Patrol, a for-publication project assembled by book artist Felicia Rice, using images by Chagoya and text Guillermo Gómez-Peña.
Codex Espangliensis
We’ve already spent one lovely evening looking through this book together and expect to enjoy many more.

Coming up next: Part II, featuring Orson Welles’ Moby Dick Rehearsed.


• Check out this cute (free!) Poet’s Pullover pattern from Wonk’s Works.

Poet's Pullover

Isn’t it great? The whole thing is so simple, yet each part of it—neckline, ribbing, sleeves—is distinct.

• I may have to go in for jury duty this afternoon, so I was scrambling like crazy this morning trying to root out one of my long-abandoned embroidery projects to take along—no knitting needles allowed in court!

• For those of you who wanted a link to the afghan pattern I posted about on 3/25, I’ve added one. Or you can just click here.

• You may also want to check out Moth Heaven‘s intarsia in the round tutorial. At first it kind of makes your brain hurt, but then the dawn of understanding begins creeping over the horizon—and before you know it, you’re dreaming up whole new worlds of knitting possibilities. I have an abandoned design/knitting project in my “unmentionables” drawer that has been waiting for just this bit of information.

Tuesday Mewsday: Penny’s Supplication

Great Bast, listen to this little cat! You gave me a mother when I was born. You found kind hands to lift me from the ditch I was forced to shelter in when living on my own. Come to my aid once again and help me to find a my-very-own home.

The lady here is wonderfully kind. She gives me treats, scritches my neck, and spends long evenings downstairs reading or knitting while I purr and purr upon her lap. She has bought a kitty bed for me and covered the couch in a wooly throw to keep me warm at night.

But Bast, despite her love, I am bedeviled by the other cats residing here. Beatrice won’t let me come upstairs. And because—as the kind lady explains—this place is a “loft” (whatever that is) there is no bedroom door to shut for protection, so I am not safe to curl up with her at night and have to sleep alone downstairs. Bea growls at me and chases me indoors when I try to go out to sun myself.

Sparky doesn’t frighten me the way Bea does, but he is a greedy thing, always emptying my food bowl before he goes to his own. I hide under the table when he comes in, and he jumps atop it and knocks things off so they come crashing down around me.

The kind lady says she wishes I wouldn’t growl so, that if I were calm and quiet, Bea and Sparky might follow my example. But Bast! I have lived in a ditch. I have struggled with raccoons for a scrap of food tossed aside by a careless student. I have a scar from these battles across my nose and another along my chin. I know what it is to be hungry and cold and afraid. I cannot forget the difficult life I have lived.

I want a person and a home to myself. Please Bast, bless me with a my-very-own home. If you do, I will sing your praises to my new companion, using purrs and nuzzles and kneading to echo the bountiful heart with which you rule this world. I will keep laps and beds warm. I will give thanks both waking and sleeping for your greatness and for kind hands that keep a kitty safe.

Please, Bast—a home. I need a home.

I’d Rather Be…

• Knitting.

• Stroking the yarn I just bought at Stitches West and dreaming about what I’ll make of it. (Photos and comments to come—Melissa and I simply didn’t have time for pictures this past weekend.)

• Stroking the yarn I haven’t used yet from last year’s Stitches West and reviewing the plans I’d made for it. In particular, I’m thinking now about a slip-stitch something for the two skeins of camel-hair yarn I bought (on the right).
Check out the colors!

• Starting work on this throw.
hexagonal throw
Yes, I already have lots of projects going, but wouldn’t these hexagons be great for toting along to meetings or on trips? I’ve got quite a few skeins of Lion’s Cotton-Ease in terra cotta, maize, and lime that I could use as core colors with “maverick” hexagons worked up in some of my ball-ends.

• Writing up the lacy shrug pattern in my head and seeing about knitting a model in one of the gorgeous yarns from Curious Creek.

• Writing up the other shrug pattern in my head and knitting a model out of the yummy marled alpaca (Peruvian Tweed) I bought a month or two ago at The Golden Fleece. One skein (600 yards per skein!) is more black than white. The other is more white than black. I’m imagining something Chanel-like with lots of moss stitch and contrast-color edgings.

• Clearing off my sewing table so I can dig into my stash of 1930s reproduction fabrics to make one of the aprons I’ve just bought patterns for.
retro apronbig apron
That’s Simplicity 3544 on the left and Simplicity 5201 on the right, in case you’re interested.

• Reading another chapter in Paul Byrne’s wonderful biography of Mary Robinson, Perdita.

Alas, all this must wait.

Instead, I will be a good little cog in the great machinery of the capitalist system and continue doing the work I’m paid for, which at this moment means marking student essays and fine-tuning arrangements for UC Santa Cruz’s next writing placement exam.

Attention Knitters—We Have Some Winners!

Melissa and I have just finished doing the prize draw for the Blogiversary Raffle for the Animals.

And now—drum roll, please—the winners are:

The Swallowtail Shawl in Louisa Harding Cinnabar: Susan B. of Peach Blossom Knits, who not only gave to the animals, but wound up adopting a new dog as a result.

The print by Melissa West: my niece, Miss Sparkles. (I double pinky swear that the draw was not rigged. Melissa drew the names with her eyes closed, and I didn’t even touch the bag she was drawing from.)

Two skeins of Socks that Rock, Undertoe colorway (donated by my friend Chris): Cathy-Cate at Hither and Yarn

The giant skein of Kauni (courtesy of The Golden Fleece): Maureen at Batty for Yarn

The Knit with Hemp Kit (courtesy of Article Pract): Ruth at Ruthless Knitting

The Bag of Twize: Donna C.

The Bag of Cotton Flamme: Clarabelle

The set of seven hand-knit dishcloths, one for each day of the week: Laurie at Knitting Garden

The copy of Sensational Knitted Socks: Ruth at 5elemenkintr

The Short Attention-Span Knitting Kit (a mini-kit for knitted appliques, along with abridged versions of Knitting for Dummies and Cocktails for Dummies): Melissa’s sister, Joanna (Again, I double pinky swear that nothing was rigged.)

I will be emailing the winners to make shipping arrangements. Meanwhile, thank you to every who contributed to this raffle. I am touched, encouraged, and delighted by your generosity. Our final total was $883, with which the great groups who received the money will be able to do all sorts of wonderful things.

Blogiversary Raffle Update

What If Knits Blogiversary

Wow! You folks are the greatest! We’re up to $868 in donations for the Blogiversary Raffle! I just love imagining all the contented cats, delighted doggies, happy horses, leaping lemurs, and appreciative apes.

I’ll be doing the draw tomorrow after Melissa gets here. We’re hoping our young friend Boaz will do the actual drawing of names for us (though his mom warns that we may have trouble getting the papers out of his hands to see whose names are written on them). Stay tuned!

P.S. Melissa and I cooked up a lovely little fantasy about Jeffrey last night. We imagined being reunited with him after seeing his picture under a newspaper headline: Millionaire Leaves Fortune to Stray Cat. Not that we would want his millions; just that we would love it if he could afford a driver and would stop by for a visit sometimes.

LYS: The Golden Fleece

Last week, I’d promised a write-up on the other of the two LYSs to donate a prize to my Blogiversary Raffle and here, at last, it is. The Golden Fleece has added a big (900+ yards) skein of Kauni in the purple-to-indigo (EL) colorway to the group of prizes.

The Golden Fleece
The Golden Fleece is located at 303 Potrero Street in the Sashmill Complex. The baskets of discounted yarn call out alluringly from alongside the door.

The store is housed in two large, well-lit rooms: a front room full of delicious yarn and books and a back room with big tables for classes.
The Golden Fleece
When I need a break, I often stop by to sit and knit a few rows. The company is wonderful and the “yarn fumes” do wonders for my creativity.

The Golden Fleece
The Golden Fleece carries both an interesting mix of new yarns and a large selection of staples. Their newest yarn, Royal Llama Linen, is insanely delectable. I expect to be succumbing to it any day now (it’s just a matter of deciding whether I’ll be giving myself to the light green or the copper colorway). They carry Dream in Color, Eco Wool, and some wonderful large-skein imports from South America, including llama marls (I have a shrug in mind for some of these). You’ll also find shelf after shelf of Cascade 220, Galway, and Encore.

When you visit the shop, remember to look up—you’ll see all sorts of sample garments to inspire you.
The Golden Fleece

The Golden Fleece has the biggest selection of Malabrigo I’ve found anywhere—a whole wall of it—and they order it regularly, so there are always new colors to tempt a knitter. I haunt them when I know a shipment is coming in: I love seeing the new hues and smelling that wonderful vinegar-y scent that results from the way they set their dyes.

As you might have guessed, The Golden Fleece also has a huge selection of Kauni.
The Golden Fleece
If you’ve been having trouble tracking this yarn down, they’ll be glad to ship it to you.

Margaret and Carol, the shop owners, are two of my favorite knitting people. Margaret knows more about knitting than I could hope to learn in ten lifetimes and shares it all with a sense of humor that makes things doubly fun. Carol knows just what skein to wave under my nose when I’m faltering; when I call her an enabler, I mean that in the best, knitterly sense of the word. The shop hosts community knitting every Sunday afternoon and in the evening on the first Friday of every month (TGIF at TGF). If you get the chance, come on by!

Tuesday Mewsday: It Takes a Village to Raise a Kitten

You would think that with six cats between us, Melissa and I would be kept plenty busy, kitty-wise. Nonetheless, we always have room in our hearts for more. Our most-beloved-ever not-our-own cat was Jeffrey, who lived next door to Melissa.

We first met him when he was a bright-orange wisp of a thing, small enough to sit on one’s hand and already out and about winning over the neighborhood. The first time I spotted him, one gloomy Sunday morning, I joined him on the front walk for a nice long cuddle. He hurled himself into my arms and immediately began trying to nurse at the inside of my elbow, purring and kneading and leaving the cutest little kitten-hickey ever.

Jeffrey had many fans and would drop in for a visit at several apartments in the complex, including Melissa’s. He was a regular topic of conversation among the neighbors, and his people would joke that he’d been seen the inside of many more apartments than they had.

You can see why everyone fell for him so easily…
Jeffffferei on the purple couch

When he dropped in at Melissa’s for a visit, his first stop was always—but, of course—the food dishes. He would unblushingly claim he hadn’t eaten in days, even when he still had kibble-crumbs on his chin from his latest snack. This gave Archy, Maggie, and Damian a chance to circle round him and sniff his butt—which apparently was the most fascinating derriere ever. With his bushy tail and his indoor-outdoor lifestyle, his hind end was full of info, info, info.

Interestingly, Melissa’s cats didn’t mind his presence.
Come in and play!
He was as welcome among local felines as he was among the human neighbors. Damian, in particular, was always eager to have him stop by.

He and Damian played chase the light…
Jefferey worships the light

… and Hide-and-Go-Seek.
Jefferey makes himself at home
He also loved climbing up on top of Melissa’s art storage racks for a long, long nap. (Apparently it is exhausting being the cat with the most interesting butt in the world.) Sometimes he’d join us for a slumber party. Lucky for us, his people were quite generous about sharing him.

Melissa and I spent many an hour cooking up special names for him, imagining his adventures and feats of daring-do, and composing songs in his honor. We didn’t just call him Jeffrey—we called him Geophfferei LaPlume DeMaTante. We imagined him trying to spell his own name: G-E-O-P-H-F-F-F-F-F–WHEE!!!

Sadly, Jeffrey disappeared during the fall of ’06, while Melissa was hiking across Spain. When she returned, we helped look for him, hanging signs and canvassing the neighborhood—but without luck.

Sometimes I imagine he is still out there: he just wandered into some particularly luxurious home, was offered a plate of caviar and decided to stop his gadding about. Other times I imagine him curled up in cat heaven, keeping Woody company until Sparky and I get there.

And the Next Doors? They had a new arrival this past month.
The new guy, Chester
Meet Chester. He’s an indoor cat, so we probably won’t see as much of him, but that will no doubt be better for his health and safety over the long haul.

My Fad of the Moment: Shrugs

I’ve transitioned from my recent shawl binge to a shrug binge. Do you knit like that? I find myself captivated by a particular shape or construction method, and then work variation upon variation on it until I feel as if I’ve made it “mine.”

Several years ago, when I was a much newer knitter and just starting to work in the round, I went through this process with hats: lace hats, cabled hats, hats with ribs in Fibonacci sequences, pointy hats, slouchy hats, hats with all sorts of designs worked into them in K/P combinations.

Now it’s shrugs.
The purply shrug
This is my version of Lacey from Knitty. I used malabrigo instead of mohair (no surprise there).

My modifications to the pattern:
• knit on dpns, then a circular, rather than using magic loop method
• shortened the cuffs (to 4.5″)
• worked wrist-to-wrist based on my measurements (this took three skeins—one for each sleeve and one for the body)
• worked the body-opening ribbing using my remaining skein of yarn and just kept going until it was done

The purply shrug by the sea
What I love about this pattern is that it involves no seaming at all: just round and round for the sleeves, back and forth for the body, pick up the ribbing, bind off and—voilá—you’re done.

Next came the Interweave Knits Sugarplum Shrug.

Their version:
The original shrug

Mine (knit in Ella Rae Angora Extra that I got on sale from—where else?—Little Knits):
The second shrug
My modifications:
• K wrong-side rows so that lace pattern has a garter stitch base, rather than stockinette
• rather than knitting lace border separately and attaching it, I sewed the side seams, then picked up stitches at the wrists and body opening and knitted a ruffle in modified feather-and-fan

As you can see, I am so pleased with the results that I am starting to go all Berroco…
The second shrug, in a baroque pose

Now I’m working away on an Aran Cabled Shrug for my sister in Lamb’s Pride Bulky (on sale at Discontinued Brand Name Yarn).
The sleeve of shrugs to come
The pattern is a bit frustrating, as the two cables are knit over different repeats, so I did a lot of cut and pasting of print-outs until I had them both centered satisfactorily. My gauge is also bigger than theirs, so I’m using the pattern, but knitting to my sister’s measurements, rather than following the recommended number of repeats.

Coming up next?

I’m thinking about Nashua’s Unstructured Shrug in Noro Transitions.
unstructured shrug

Or perhaps this somewhat frivolous little number from Drops.
drops shrug
I’m sure to have enough malabrigo…