Thursday, March 06, 2008

Because I had NO impulse control last week...

Despite the fact that I am presently knitting two sweaters and a pair of socks, I was just complaining about how large my stash is and I probably can't fit this stuff into the stash bins under the bed, last week I bought this:
The pattern and supplies for the Urban Aran (cardigan version). As I previously mentioned, it was a challenge laying my hands on the pattern--everyone was out of it (though Ingrid generously offered to loan me her copy; that's Ingrid who just had a beautiful baby and is still blogging and commenting more than those of us who get a full night's sleep! Thank you Ingrid, but I tend to scribble on my patterns.) so when I saw it for sale at the Knitting Warehouse, I kind of panicked and bought it. And the yarn.

I know some people turn their noses up at Patons Shetland Chunky because it is only 25% wool and the rest is Akkkkkrylic. But it's really soft. And washable. And it doesn't look like spun plastic. If I could have found the right weight and color in a superwash wool as soft as the Swish worsted I am currently knitting with on the other sweater, I would have bought it. But it seems like most chunky yarns have an itch factor that I am not equipped to handle.

I'm this far on the top down wrap cardigan:
Well, truth be told, I'm a little further along because it is a great brainless pattern to knit on during Ian's piano lessons or while watching videos. And I have recently discovered another TV series on DVD worth watching--the Canadian show Slings and Arrows. As one who is perhaps overly familiar with the personalities and egos of people involved in theater, I am having a wonderful time watching this series which pokes gentle fun at a theater company and festival that closely resembles The Stratford Festival. There are even regular Stratford Fest actors in the cast, most notably Stephen Ouimette who I saw in a fantastic Waiting for Godot. I'm only on the first season though I hear William Hutt is prominent in season 3. The Ann Arbor District Library has the whole series on DVD, so if you are looking for an excellent way to retreat from this endless winter (6 inches of snow on Wednesday! Up to 8 more forecast for tomorrow!) and get some of your knitting done, give this a try.

Toile developments

I'm still working on my "subversive toile" keyboard cover and lately finished a couple of additions:
It was a lot of fun making the octopus, particularly the little suction cups on his tentacles. I love how un-fazed all the people around the octopus look, as though there is no reason to interrupt their business to acknowledge the presence of a large cephalopod in their midst.

The other completed detail is just a small fire in the ruined castle, but no one is in danger of burning:

Monday, March 03, 2008

Everyday is Smekday!

I finished reading The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex yesterday, a wonderfully inventive novel of alien invasion.

The main character is a smart, sassy 11 year old girl named Gratuity (nick name "Tip"). She is resourceful at the start of the book and becomes even more so as the book progresses. The novel moves from invasion plot, to a road trip plot, to a save the world plot with Gratuity joined by a confused but very handy alien who calls himself J.Lo. He has mistakenly alerted another hostile alien species to the presence of Earth (aka Smekland) and thus is on the run from his own species (the Boov) and isn't welcomed by humans either. Gratuity is trying to find her mom and survive, and together with a pet cat named Pig, they save the world not only from the Boov, but also from the much more fearsome Gorg.

Rex is an illustrator and throughout the book there are wonderful little black and white sketches that made me smile every time I came upon one--I defy anyone to see a drawing of J.Lo's goofy smile and not adore the little alien.

Rex also has a great ear for ESL and J.Lo's speech is fun to read with all its malaprops and confused verb conjugations. There is a wonderful scene that hinges on J.Lo's use of the word "explore" for "explode" (I never noticed how close those two words were before this). I particularly loved exchanges like this:

"I am thinking we are alls in the same car now," said J.Lo. "We should to have no more secretions."
"Secrets. Yes."

This kind of dialog had me snorting with laughter as I read along. But the novel isn't all jokes and silliness--there are some excellent points made about how people treat each other, group mentality vs individual responsibility, and friendship. The novel also includes moments of insight such as this exchange between Gratuity and J.Lo:

"This is incredible!" I shouted. "You guys can teleport! You can clone things! You could, like, teleport to France and leave a clone of yourself behind to do your homework!"
The Boov frowned. "Everybodies always is wanting to make a clone for to doing their work. If you are not wanting to do your work, why would a clone of you want to do your work?"

There were a couple of weak spots in the book. One conveniently borrowed idea--the Boov discovered the existence of our planet and learned our languages through TV broadcasts--is exactly the scenario in the fun Star Trek parody film Galaxy Quest. And Gratuity's mom is such a space cadet in the beginning that it is hard to see how she has become much more capable when she is finally tracked down in Arizona. But these are really minor quibbles with a book that takes on so many cultural icons (Roswell, New Mexico; Disney World; Indian Reservations) and folds them into a rambunctious plot with grace and humor.

I can't wait to read this one with Ian if only for the great fun that reading J.Lo's part aloud will bring.