Turkey Tracks: Three Knitting Projects

Turkey Tracks:  December 30, 2010

Three Knitting Projects

I have three knitting projects going on at the moment.

First, I bought this book at the Border’s in Portland when we spent the night before flying to Charleston at Thanksgiving.  I LOVE Noro yarn.   The colors are brilliant, vivid, and so much fun.  I’ve made two scarf Noro projects.  And, two matching hats.  But I’ve never worked with the bulky weight–Iro.   KNITTING NORO has a bulky cardigan that I really liked, and Helen at Heavenly Socks in Belfast helped me find an Iro I liked.  She ordered it for me forthwith AND gave me a 20 percent discount on it as part of her holiday discount special.


Amazon.com: Knitting Noro: The Magic of Knitting with Hand-Dyed Yarns 9780307586551: Jane Ellison: Books

Here is the yarn I chose.  You can see I’ve wound 5 of the skeins.  I left three so you could see how pretty they look, too:

I can hardly wait to start this sweater.  But, but, I have two other projects ahead of this one.  A silk/bamboo scarf–so I can master cables and an intricate pattern.  (I’ve already taken it out twice, but I’m getting the hang of it now.  And, some sock yarn (magenta and dark grey) that I’m going to use to try socks that start at the toe AND that use a 5-stitch pattern.

In addition, I’m working on 3 quilts in various stages of development and just sent one off in the mail today.  But more on that later.

Turkey Tracks: The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Turkey Tracks:  November 8, 2010

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Muriel Barbery is a French professor of philosophy.  Her novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog has been enormously popular in her native France, England, and in America. 

I do not see why.

I believe the novel’s success to be partly due to a lack of critical reviews.  The reviews on-line are all laudatory.  So is the novel’s popularity due to some popular idea that this is a philosophical novel that produces cultural capital if one has read it because it does discuss various philosophical ideas along the way?   But, for me, Barbery’s philosophical stance in the novel is incoherent.  And, Barbery shocks the reader by killing her protagonist just when the three central characters have come together in an interesting way.  It’s as if Barbery does not know what to do with them once she’s set their stage.  And, I found it very difficult to capture the large cast in my head as I read.  I kept having to page back to see “who is that again?”

But, let’s look at how Barbery handles philosophy.  She, as is customary, divides the subject into two major camps:  idealism and materialism.  Idealism comes from the mind of the individual interacting with the world, as in Descartes “I think, therefore I am.”  And, phenomenology, a subset of idealism and the subject of a debunking discourse in the novel– is the belief that the real world in inaccessible  because all that exists is perception formed in the mind.   Materialism, on the other hand, believes that there are bones, dates, and observable constructs in the world.  Marx, for instance, is from the materialistic camp.  But, Barbery dismisses Marx on the first page of the novel.  Not all of materialism, but Marx, who writes of capital and its impact on class–a major subject in the novel as the main protagonist is a concierge in a fancy apartment filled with rich people. 

With idealism dismissed and Marx dismissed, what remains?  For Barbery it’s a particular material moment of viewing Beauty.   ART, thus, gives us the power to erase desire because we can look at beauty/art without wanting the objects portrayed in the art.  Further, the still life, or the objects within art, hold beauty in a timeless moment.  Barbery describes other such timeless beautiful moments of beauty in the novel.  So, all of materialism is reduced to beauty held in a moment seen only by the observant–like the petal of a flower falling that one of the protagonists sees. 

But, but, but–isn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder.  And, aren’t notions of beauty formed by one’s culture and by the context within which one lives?  History shows shifting notions of beauty.  Yet, a key scene that sketches out Barbery’s philosophy is when the concierge visits the apartment of a wealthy Japanese man and sees a western still life from several hundred years ago.  Together the two people–one Asian and one French–salivate over this very Western picture.  Would the Japanese man really have this notion of beauty?  Would the concierge really enjoy esoteric Japanese movies that display Japanese notions of beauty?  This is the great bourgeoise move that makes all people alike under the sun.  By drawing a notion of universal beauty that can be seen by all, Barbery erases the very real differences that exist between cultures, between ages.  What has followed that idea around the world has been a violence carried out by those with the power to do so.  The different are made to want the same things as the conqueror when their culture was/is very different. 

Aha, but maybe that’s where the popularity lies.  It’s the same old Western story told yet another way, isn’t it?  And, isn’t the viewing of ART actually a moment of idealism, not materialism.  Isn’t that moment mediated by the mind and the cultural knowledge of the mind?  So, what’s really going on here is an entrapment within the idealistic circuit which maintains the status quo of… class reality, for instance.

Yes, that’s it.

Turkey Tracks: Book Club, Dewey

May 17, 2010

Book Club:  Dewey, the Library Cat

I love my book club.  We are six members, and each year, we each propose a list of 5 books.  The members choose two books from each members’ list, for a total of 12 books.  So, that’s our year of reading.  What I love, in addition to the members themselves, is that I frequently read books I would not have chosen for myself.  My life has been richer for those experiences, even when I don’t like a chosen book, it is interesting to hear if others did and why. 

I hosted in May.  It was a beautiful spring day.  I pulled out my yellow tablecloth, the matching tulip and bird napkins, and got out the Royal Tara shamrock tea set AND TEAPOT that John’s mother, Norah, gave me.  I made one of Julia Child’s lovely cakes–the chocolate and almond Queen of Sheba cake.  I put a chocolate ganache icing on it, then drizzled a dark chocolate butter cream over that.  Yummo!

I was able to pick some flowers from the garden.  It’s the first bouquet I’ve been able to organize from our spring garden.  I did pick some of the daffodils in the meadow for a friend’s birthday, but they are naturalizing so well that I just leave them alone.  It is enough to see their jaunty heads bouncing on the wind or turned up to the sun.  I was able to cage a few daffs from the upper gardens. 

The viburnum will only last one day as their woody stems won’t take in water.  But, they brought in the most heavenly sweetness with them.  The blue blossoms are from a pulmonaria (lungwort), and it is doing very well in the yard.  If you don’t know, the tiny blue blossoms turn pink with age.

As you might have noticed from the picture, our book this month was Dewey–a tale of a library cat.  I even heard the author interviewed on Diane Rehm a few years back.  None of us liked this book.  We thought it confused between the narrative of Dewey (a short narrative) and the narrative of the author’s own life.  Some of us wanted more on one or the other, which was interesting.  I was unable to finish it.  I ran out of time because I just couldn’t get into it.    

So, on to the next:  Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna.