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Saturday, February 24, 2018

One Can Never Have Enough Purple Necklaces

I got French General's beaded crochet kit for Christmas, so I made a super-long sparkly necklace that perfectly matches a cardigan, leggings, and my winter coat (guess what my favorite color is!):

Inspired by Black Panther's costuming and jewelry (such a good movie), I pulled out Zulu Inspired Beadwork by Diane Fitzgerald and made the flowerette necklace:

Sunday, February 18, 2018

What I'm Stitching

I started Bee's Needleworks's "Tree of Stitches," a project I've been dying to stitch for a few years:

I've started up again with Der Feine Faden's "Summer Mood":

And I'm almost finished with the Victoria Sampler's "L Is for Librarian":

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

On to the Next Quilt

Now that Beadboy1's quilt is finally done, I can start in on Beadboy2's. Years ago I bought a Seminole quilting book thinking I might do that, but I think I would (again) be biting off more than I can chew. And then, last year, I discovered the Minecraft Quilt.

Beadboy2 is has been obsessed with Minecraft for years, and he enthusiastically supports this quilt (he also swears he will still be into Minecraft whenever the heck I finish it). So I bought the fabric bundle and started cutting and piecing. Just a couple of weeks later I already have seven squares!
Skeleton and Villager
Pig and Cow
Alex and Steve
This is progressing much faster than the star quilt (probably helps that I'm not dealing with a gazillion 4.5-inch squares).  Dare I jinx it, and predict that I might have the top done by the end of the year?

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

I can't remember the last time I read a true novel of ideas like The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Nominally about two couples dealing with each other and the aftermath of the Prague Spring, the story is a meditation on actions and consequences, language, body and soul, and life itself.* The narration Kundera uses is deceptively folksy, as if he is a charming storyteller relating the latest gossip, but he is constantly challenging his characters' (and our) assumptions.

The title is taken from a concept elucidated early on by Kundera -- the idea that because we have one life, that we cannot revisit decisions or "try again," consequences don't matter. One can float through life without giving a thought to how others are affected because what's done is done, and therefore irrelevant. Tomas spends most of his life guided by this principle and so convinces himself that his dalliances with woman after woman could not possibly affect his wife. Sabina takes a slightly different tack. Not only does she acknowledge the consequences of her betrayals, she revels in them and seeks them out without letting them affect her; in her own way floats through life equally "light in being."  Nevertheless, what these two spend so much time avoiding does ultimately weigh them down, in ways they don't necessarily acknowledge.

Tereza, on the other hand, is quite weighed down -- by her mother's grotesque earthiness, Tomas's infidelities, her unconditional love for her dog, and ultimately her own inability to reconcile the tension she perceives between her body and her soul.  This latter struggle of hers is the flip side of Tomas's infidelities, and both derive from the idea that the soul and the body are separate entities.

The story takes place during and after the Soviet conquest of Czechoslovakia, and Kundera has quite a bit to say about that, too, particularly the irrelevance of ideas, integrity, or even truth in the face of a determination to win at any cost (something that hit close to home in our current post-fact, "fake news" political landscape).  This novel served as a stark reminder of how much ugly, petty, unrelenting evil Communism causes. Turns out, extreme ideologies also thrive without being weighed down by the actual consequences they generate.

*Just a few chapters into the novel, I wondered how one could possibly turn these ideas into a movie. Turns out, you can't, and Kundera was disappointed with the adaptation.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Book Round-Up

Smart Baseball By Keith Law: How could I resist a book about baseball stats that quotes heavily from the Simpsons? Law's book about good and bad stats (or "smart" and "smrt" stats) is informative and engaging, particularly when his exasperation with certain concepts (the clutch hitter, win/loss ratio) generates some really funny writing.

Buttoned Up by Kylie Logan: This appears to be the last one in the series, although the ending suggests Logan originally intended more. In any case, it wasn't the best. Although the concept of art incorporating Vudon and buttons was quite fascinating, and Logan made a point of presenting Vudon accurately, there seemed to be no acknowledgement of the cultural appropriation issues that would absolutely have been a big deal in the real world. Also, the romantic conflict was kind of dumb.

Knit Your Own Murder by Monica Ferris: As always, Ferris's latest was super enjoyable. This particular mystery was unusual and clever, and the new characters were interesting.

Gabriel Finley and the Lord of Air and Darkness by George Hagen: A fun, fun book. The magical Brooklyn Hagen has created is a delight, and the series deserves to be as popular as the Harry Potter series.

The Map Thief by Michael Blanding: One of the perks of my job is the occasional free book. This one is about E. Forbes Smiley, a rare map dealer who shocked the book world when he got caught stealing millions in maps from libraries. Smiley ultimately decided not to cooperate with Blanding on the book, so we don't get as much insight into why he did what he did as I would have liked. And I didn't need quite so much detail about the publication of maps. But still, a good read.

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff: the first installment of a series on the 19th century adventures of a daredevil young woman, the story was fun and the art was cute but there wasn't a whole lot to it. Because the point of view is that of the Turkish Lieutenant, Delilah Dirk remains somewhat of a cipher.

Snow Falling by Jane Gloriana Villanueva*: Jane the Virgin is an absolutely delightful show, so of course when the fictional Jane's novel was published in the real world I had to buy it. Unfortunately, it wasn't nearly as delightful. It simply retells the story of the first two seasons, but set in Miami in 1902.  The novel suffers from trying to hit every plot point from the show, and would have benefited from shaking up the narrative. Or better yet, leaning into the historical setting. The characters were far too anachronistic to be credible.

*really Caridad Piñeiro.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Holiday Round-Up

Simply Crochet no. 63 came with a kit to make a festive llama.  I was skeptical of the color combination at first, but by the end I found it adorable:
There was a small problem with the kit, though -- not enough yarn, even though I used the smallest recommended hook.  I had to improvise on the ears, hair, and tail, using the scraps left over from the other body parts.

The llama wasn't the only crocheting I did. Back in November, I made the Granny Ripple tree skirt from Annie's Trim the Tree 2017 issue.
It's not quite big enough to go around our tree stand, so I may add another motif or two next year.

There was a lot of yarn left over. In addition to adding to the skirt, I am knitting a scarf for Beadboy2 (slow going) and I crocheted a couple of simple ornaments:

For the Three Kings Day party I threw, I made some simple beaded stars to give to the guests:

Finally, some stitching. Once everything else was made, I had the time to stitch a couple of ornaments for myself. Mmmcrafts's Partridge and Pear (LOVE the series):

And from the 2017 Just Cross Stitch Christmas Ornaments issue, the 2017 Christmas Bauble by Patricia Ann Designs:

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Who's Who in Hell by Robert Chalmers

If you read the blurbs on the cover, you'd think Chalmers's debut novel was a biting satire of publishing and modern life.  It is that, in part, but that's really not the point of the story. Daniel makes a living as an obituary writer, writing not only anticipatory obituaries to have on hand (an actual practice by newspapers) but satirical obituaries too truthful and cutting to see the light of day. That, in turn, inspires him to begin the titular book, a collection of obituaries of horrible criminals and human monsters.

But while Chalmers pokes plenty of fun at the newspaper industry, the obituaries are just one piece in the larger theme of mortality and how we cope with it. The central story is really Daniel's and Laura's relationship.  This could have so easily gone wrong -- Daniel's your standard ordinary guy trying to get by, and Laura at first threatens to be the Manic Pixie Dream Girl that pulls Daniel out of his slump. But Chalmers smartly develops Laura's character, giving her a personality, relationships independent of Daniel, and her own struggle reconciling life and death.  This makes the heartbreaking ending all the more poignant; the last few chapters gutted me.

I'm not sure I would have read this book had I known what it was really about. But I'm glad I did, because Chalmers depiction of a relationship both conventional and unconventional was honest and moving.