Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I have seen the future of television, and it is crap

As I start this post, I have seen a grand total of nine minutes of Quarterlife, and I've already come to the conclusion that it is the worst thing that has ever been on T.V. I want to punch all of the characters. No, really. I want to bang their heads against their thrift-shop furniture. Is that supposed to be the point of Quarterlife, or is the idea here that we're actually supposed to find these characters and their "problems" interesting? This thing is supposed to be very revolutionary, because it was originally broadcast on the internet and has now made its way to network television. It's a shame that it's so unbelievably awful.

Here are some issues with Quarterlife:

  1. Blogging about your friends' personal lives is really obnoxious. It's horrible, actually. If you can't think of anything to blog about other than that one of your friends gets drunk and sleeps around and that another is in love with his best friend's girlfriend, you really shouldn't have a blog. The protagonist's compulsion to share her friends' secrets with the world doesn't make her cool and artistic. It makes her pretty fucking appalling. And it's hard to build a T.V. show around someone who's kind of the scum of the earth.
  2. Miss Scum-of-the-Earth, the show's protagonist apparently doesn't realize that half of the city is reading her blog. In fact, she's under the mistaken impression that nobody is reading her blog. Have the old guys who made this show never heard of a site counter?
  3. The characters on Quarterlife are unbelievably self-indulgent. 99.9999% of the earth's population would be overjoyed to have the "problems" that they whine about. Miss Scum-of-the-Earth is an editorial associate at a women's magazine. She is not artistically fulfilled. She is amazed that people at her job (at a women's magazine) care that she wears sloppy clothes. She appears to be upset that women's magazines care about selling tampons and prefer content that allows them to sell advertisements. She whines about her job's "inauthenticity." What this person needs is for someone to sit her down and explain the concept of professionalism. Actually, what she needs is for someone to fire her whiny little ass, because she appears to think she's too good for a job that she is, in fact, not really good enough for. Her guy friends, who just graduated from film school, have similar artistic integrity issues about a commercial they have just been hired to make. They've been hired to make a commercial, and they are worried that they're not being true to their artistic vision. What kind of a jackass would even consider that a problem? Nobody ever explained the concept of paying your dues to these people?
  4. This show believes all the stupid stereotypes about Gen Y, and I kind of don't. I don't believe that people that age are that shallow, that entitled, or frankly that dumb. I don't even believe that the shallow, entitled or dumb ones are that shallow, entitled or dumb. I worked with a couple of people that age last year, and they were all pretty normal. They worked hard, they were not self-indulgent twits, and they had real problems.
So yeah, I will not be watching this show again, mostly because it's boring, but also because it's kind of insulting. I'm older than the generation this show is supposed to be about, but I'm still offended on their behalf.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A knitterly confession

Greetings from vertigo hell. I feel like crap, with a capital C and that rhymes with V and that stands for... well, you know. Between the weather and my crazy, crazy vertigo, I am in a thoroughly pissy mood. Although to be fair, it might be worse to have vicious vertigo if the weather were beautiful and I actually wanted to go outside. I'm planted on my living room couch, and I don't plan to leave until Sunday. Ok, that's an exaggeration. At some point, I must go to bed, and I will probably eat something and go to the bathroom at some point. Also, there will probably be puking. But aside from eating, peeing, puking, and sleeping, I plan to sit here for a few days, barring some unexpected improvement in the vertigo situation. I really hope there's something decent on T.V.

Ok, so it should be clear that I'm in a bad mood, and perhaps that explains why I'm feeling a little ranty. But today I would like to post about how much I dislike going to LYSs. I realize that this is basically blasphemy among the modern, trendy knitter set. For our sort, the Local Yarn Store is supposed to be like a shrine. We go there to bask in the warm, knitterly glow, fondle the beautiful yarn, and converse with fellow trendy knitters. This is not how I feel. I find LYSs totally unpleasant. I wish Jo-Ann's sold the kind of yarn I like, because I massively prefer the big box craft store experience.

First of all, I find LYSs physically unpleasant. This, too, is blasphemy. We're supposed to prefer cozy little nooks to huge, florescently-lit big box monstrosities. This is a sign not just of being a serious knitter, but also of being a good lefty and an urban sophisticate. But I don't. I like big, spacious aisles which don't make me think I'm going to bump into anything. For political reasons, I prefer to shop in places that are accessible to people who use wheelchairs or walkers. I find it easier to find stuff in big box stores than in overcrowded little shops.

Second of all, I don't enjoy my interactions with LYS employees and customers. This is, I'm sure, a function of my being a little bit crazy. The truth of the matter is that I'm kind of anti-social. I don't really want to have a lot of personal interaction with random people, except when I do, which is rare. And dealing with LYS employees always feels like an actual social interaction, rather than just a regular commercial transaction. They want to know about my knitting, which is really not especially interesting knitting. They seem interested in my yarn selection, which is also not very interesting. And frankly, they seem visibly unimpressed by my yarn selection. I'm a broke grad student, and I pretty much knit with Cascade 220 and various yarns from KnitPicks. That means that when I go to an LYS, it's usually to buy Cascade 220, which I realize is extremely boring, unimpressive yarn. But it's boring, unimpressive yarn that is affordable on a student budget, and avoiding credit card debt is more important to me than impressing LYS employees with my awesome taste in yarn.

I enjoy going to big box craft stores. I enjoy the wide aisles, but mostly I enjoy the anonymity. Nobody at Jo-Ann's looks at me funny if I only buy a few notions. In fact, nobody seems to notice me much at all. I went to Jo-Ann's today to get some stuff to seam my Central Park Hoodie. (Thanks for driving, M! ) I got some very exciting yarn needles, some knitters safety pins, and some stitch holders. I spent a grand total of about $5. Nobody seemed at all fazed by the fact I spent so little. Nobody tried to convince me that I really needed extremely fancy yarn needles, safety pins, or stitch holders. It was lovely. I believe in shopping locally, supporting independent stores, and all that, but truth be told, if Jo-Ann's carried Cascade 220, I'd probably never go to LYSs at all.

Monday, February 18, 2008

In which I whine about the weather

The good news is that I have blocked the back and left front of the Central Park Hoodie, and I think they both look pretty good. The back is looser than the front, which is really the opposite of how it should be, given my rather ample boobage. I think I might compensate by making the button band a little wider than is called for. But at any rate, the back and the left front are both the right size, due to careful blocking, and they both look ok. I've cast on the right front and am hoping to finish it quickly. Then I have to face the dreaded seaming, but I will cross that bridge when I get to it.

The bad news is that the weather sucks. It really and truly stinks. We had flooding over the weekend, and now it's really cold, and all the standing water on the sidewalks and streets has iced over. It's like an ice rink, but without the ice skates. My balance is a bit off, due to my inner ear problem, and the whole thing is scary and treacherous. I would not leave the house, but I have an appointment with my advisor tomorrow. Oh, well. If I break my hip, at least it will give me something to blog about.

And just to make this post even more exciting, I have uploaded a picture of my empanadas from last week. I do not know what possessed me to take a picture of my empanadas, but here they are, in all their flaky deliciousness:

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Cross-stitching for the revolution!

On the Ravelry thread about the Browncoat patch chart, someone linked to KnitPro, which will convert images from your hard drive into knitting or cross-stitch patterns. This is part of some sort of lefty project, the purpose of which is not entirely clear to me. (I'm pretty lefty, but I craft because I like crafting, not because I believe my Central Park Hoodie will singlehandedly end capitalism and smash the patriarchy.) I ran the Browncoat patch through it and came up with this:

It would take some work to convert that to an actual chart, since you'd have to figure out what to do with the gray squares, and I'm not sure that I would like it as much as mine in the end. The skinny star is more like the one on the original patch than my pudgy star, but when you actually chart it out, I think it looks a little choppy and un-star-like. Anyway, it's a cool tool, and I'm putting it here for my friend M, who is a cross-stitching maven and who might want to use it to make her own cross-stitch patterns. Hopefully, they will be suitably revolutionary, or at least cute and nerdy.

(M once did an elaborate and deeply awesome Star Wars cross-stitch for her admirably geeky boyfriend. Someone should start a website in which to display excellent instances of geek craft.)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

And again with the geekiness

I tweaked the Excel formating to make the stitches on my Browncoat insignia stitch shaped, not square. The cool-looking chopped-off triangle no longer looks cool like this, but I think the triangle patch looks ok. Here it is. Once again, feel free to tweak, and let me know if you'd like me to email you the Excel file for easier tweakage. Here's what I've got:

Ok, here's a final effort to fix the star:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

No, really. I wasn't kidding about the fangirl thing.

Someone on Ravelry wanted a chart for a Browncoat insignia, so I have attempted to chart a Browncoat insignia. It looks a little bit like Jayne's mom was commissioned to do Browncoat uniforms, but I suppose that adds to the gritty authenticity. At any rate, you've got to give me credit for being geeky. Unfortunately, I have no idea how one would actually go about knitting this thing. I've never done intarsia, and that's probably the way to go. (I don't know if the gauge is right for intarsia, though. I do stranded colorwork, and I used square graph paper, because that's how my stranded stitches work out.) This would take considerable tweaking if you wanted to make it into a stranded pattern, because there are big, uninterrupted blocks of single colors. I bet someone could come up with something cool, though. At any rate, feel free to tweak it as you see fit. Also, it's an Excel file, and I'd be happy to send it to you if you'd like to fool around with it for yourself.

So anyway, here is what the Browncoat insignia is supposed to look like:

And here is my best effort:

Edited to add this one, which is not strictly accurate but which I think looks kind of cool:

Monday, February 11, 2008

Attack of the Squeeing Fan Girl

Most of the time, I do a pretty good impression of a normal person. I can dress myself in a reasonably fashionable manner, there is no identifiable fan art in my apartment, and I think my personal grooming habits are acceptable. I think that most of my casual acquaintances believe that I am admirably non-eccentric.

But in truth, it's all a pose. I am an enormous, enormous geek. I seem to have a congenital tendency towards obsession: I was just built to be a fan girl. So here are some of my current geeky interests.

1. Empanadas. Can you be a pastry fangirl? If so, then I am one. I am slightly obsessed with pie. In fact, other than all things Irish, it may be my longest-standing obsession. There are very few pies that I don't love: sweet, savory, tarts, you name it. Making pie is one of my favorite comfort activities: it's what I do when I'm in need of a pick-me-up. (Given my chronic vertigo problem, this has made for some awkward cooking situations recently. I can make pie while the kitchen is whirling, but it's a messy process.)

Anyway, I've had a hankering for empanadas for the past few days, so last night I made a batch. Empanadas, for those not in the know, are sort of like Cornish pasties. You take a circle of pastry, put something in it, fold it over, bake or fry it, and you've got a yummy, portable lunch. Many years ago, I was introduced to this culinary delicacy at a glorious little restaurant in D.C. called Julia's Empanadas. Mine are a poor substitute for Julia's, but since there's nothing like Julia's Empanadas in Chicago, I've been making them periodically ever since.

You can fill an empanada with just about anything, but I like ground beef, which is the most common filling. For the pastry, I used this recipe from epicurious, except that I substituted shortening for half of the butter. This may be sacrelige, but I'm broke, and butter is expensive. Actually, though, an all-butter crust for empanadas seems a little wrong to me. For the filling, I used this recipe, also from epicurious. I used less fancy ground beef, and I substituted capers for the olives, because I had capers on hand, and again with the brokeness. I baked them instead of frying them, because frying is overkill, and I brushed the tops with a little bit of olive oil. They're pretty scrumptious, if I do say so myself. I will be eating them for lunch for the next week or so.

2. I have, God help me, fallen so low that I'm reading Firefly fan fiction. To be fair, it's especially good fan fiction, by an actual published writer. Here it is. It's not perfect, but the characters all sound right, and it's got a particularly good and believable take on River. I also like that it deals with a central, unexplored issue in Firefly, which is the tension between Mal's ethical code and his libertarianism. Mal can't abide exploitation, but he also can't abide any government that would be strong enough to stop exploitation in a systematic way. He's constantly stuck being a Big Damn Hero, because his only model for dealing with injustice is for some crusading individual to come in and beat up the bad guys. I strongly suspect that had the series survived, it would have dealt with this problem and with the idea that the Alliance, for all its brutality, is not all evil. I actually think that ambiguity is part of what makes the series compelling, and I wish it had stuck around for long enough to tackle it.

3. I am a fan of post-apocalyptic literary fun. I really enjoyed World War Z, which is one of those realist sci-fi books that is set in a world exactly identical to our own, with one small tweak. (See, for example, The Time-Traveler's Wife, which was a little cheesy for my tastes but which had a completely believable take on time travel.) In this case, the small tweak is the existence of a plague of flesh-eating zombies. Other than the plague of zombies, World War Z is a totally realistic book, reflecting all of our anxieties about globalization, American arrogance and military overreach, consumerism, the sad state of the news media, and what have you. In fifty years, this will be a pretty great source about American culture in the early 21st century.

If World War Z has a shortcoming, it has to do with characterization. It's really a book about society, not about individuals, and people's individual stories mostly serve to illustrate larger points. If that irks you, you can compensate by reading a really great, totally intimate post-apocalyptic novel: How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. This is billed as a Young Adult novel, which I think makes it pretty geeky, but it's terrific and I think would appeal to a lot of my fellow grown-ups. It's a post-apocalyptic novel with some fantasy elements, but honestly, I think what I appreciated most about it was its totally unsentimental take on its protagonist's eating disorder. I usually hate eating disorder books, which often end up making anorexia look very romantic and almost admirable. Fifteen-year-old Daisy's anorexia is totally self-indulgent and, in a world that's falling apart, a little bit obscene. You can sympathize with Daisy's pre-apocalyptic problems, even as you realize that she's a bit of a whiny, over-entitled brat. Post-apocalyptic, post-anorexic Daisy is a much more admirable character than pre-apocalyptic, anorexic Daisy. Especially because this is a book aimed at teenagers, I really appreciated Rosoff's skill in pulling that off.

So that's what I've been up to on the geek front. I'm still working on my Central Park Hoodie. I hope to finish the left front tonight and move on to the right front. Fun!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

More picture-y goodness

It's not blocked, but here's a photo of the back of my CPH.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The back is done

I finished the back of the Central Park Hoodie. Sadly, I am too tired to block it, much less take a pretty photo of it. Will block and photograph tomorrow.

Why yes, I am a little crazy

I finished the draft of my article and sent it out. Then I sat down with my computer and the internets and figured out who to vote for on all the obscure judge and water commissioner races. Then I went and voted in the primary. I got back at about 4:00 PM, thinking that I'd accomplished the things I needed to accomplish today and wondering why I felt like there was something that I'd forgotten to do. And then I realized what it was. I had forgotten to eat. It was 4:00 PM, and I'd consumed nothing all day except coffee and Jolly Ranchers. Oops!

I am seriously, seriously exhausted. I need to sleep for about twelve hours, and then I need to go to the grocery store, do some laundry, and possibly read some stupid magazines. I'm going to try to finish the back of my Central Park Hoodie tonight, but I think my brain might not be up to figuring out the short row shoulders.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Pictures! Get your fresh, piping hot pictures!

I took a picture of the back of my Central Park Hoodie. It's not a very good picture, but it is picture-y.

I'm a little concerned about how loose the fabric is. I put the back of the sweater on top of a white towel for better contrast when I took the picture, and you can see bits of the towel through the holes in the fabric. I think that when I'm done with the Central Park Hoodie, I may have to break down and work on knitting a little tighter.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Brief geeky interlude

I've been watching The Wire on DVD. I'm currently about two thirds of the way through season 2. And while I really like The Wire, I have been repeatedly, inexplicably irritated by one tiny aspect of the show. I don't buy Jimmy McNulty's taste in music. Jimmy McNulty, for non-Wire fans, is probably the closest thing the show has to a main character: he's a screwed up, arrogant jerk of a cop who happens to be very, very good at solving cases and kind of horrible at every other aspect of his life. Every time we see Jimmy McNulty out on a bender, which is fairly often, he's listening to early '60s Motown hits on his car radio. Now, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on Jimmy McNulty. He's supposed to be about my age, and he's supposed to be from the next city over from the city where I grew up. Had Jimmy McNulty been a real person, we probably would have bumped into each other at that Beastie Boys/ L7/ House of Pain concert that my friends and I schlepped up to Baltimore to see in 1992. And it bugged me to no end that we constantly saw him driving around listening to the oldies station. I don't believe that Jimmy McNulty would listen to oldies. What I do believe is that David Simon, the series' creator, listens to that music, and he identifies with the Jimmy McNulty character. Given his obsession with getting the minute details of his characters' lives right, it irked me that one of the show's main characters listened to music that in real life would be more appropriate for his parents.

I was thinking about this tonight, ranting about it in my head, as I was about to watch my nightly episode of The Wire. And then I turned it on, and in the first scene, Jimmy McNulty goes out and gets wasted, gets in his car, turns on the radio, and it's playing...

"Transmetropolitan" by the Pogues. Which, I have to say, is exactly what Jimmy McNulty would be listening to while he was driving around drunk off his ass. Someone clearly noticed the Jimmy McNulty music problem and fixed it.

And then when the episode ended, I checked the credits and realized that this is the first episode of The Wire that was written by George Pelecanos. I actually happen to kind of hate George Pelecanos's books, for a lot of reasons that are too complicated to go into. He's definitely one of the best writers about contemporary D.C., which is a sad, sad commentary about the state of writing on D.C. But you've got to hand it to him: he has an impeccable sense of his characters' musical taste. And some googling reveals that he was, in fact, responsible for fixing the McNulty soundtrack:

As story editor for the popular HBO crime drama The Wire, set up the road in Baltimore, he’s wielded a minor musical influence: in a scene last season Detective Jimmy McNulty, on a bender, seeks his own soundtrack. “When he’s drunk, he throws the Pogues in the tape deck?” Pelecanos recalls. “That was me.”

To which I can only say: thank you, George Pelecanos. You have removed one of the small irritations in my television viewing life.