Autumn 2013

Autumn 2013

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Temporal Displacement

Happy spring time to all! I hope the weather and the holidays are treating you well, whether you are celebrating the season or just enjoying the return of daylight. Depending, of course, on your hemispheric persuasion; those in the southern parts of the globe will be on their way to a cooler season.
This week, we have had the ten-day Easter break that includes the upcoming Monday; a nice quiet week for us with lots of sleeping late for the boys and a couple of family gatherings. We celebrated the birthday of my nephew Emil on Thursday with a delicious brunch and lovely weather.

For Victor, the break may well turn out to be longer than usual: the negotiations for work hours and pay and work conditions in general for the teachers keep breaking down, and a lock-out was announced quite a while ago. Unless something radical happens, it is to begin on 1st April, keeping all primary and middle school teachers away from work – and all children away from school. This, of course, has a huge impact on everybody, not only teachers, parents, and children, but also anybody employing parents who suddenly need to look after their children during school hours.
I wrote a while ago about the conclusions of the negotiations for high school teachers, which were not favourable for either teachers or students; this may turn out along the same lines, though I sincerely hope not.

And today, we are all jet-lagged, I am at least, having set the clocks forward for the Daylight Saving Time. I find this immensely annoying; there may very well have been a time, when the saving of daylight hours was important – but the world works differently now, and the need for daylight for manual labour has decreased dramatically. At the same time, the period in which the clocks do not tell the right time has increased to seven months per year, from the last weekend in March till the last weekend in October.
The effect of this temporal displacement is not the same as when you travel. Going to a different place in a different time zone changes the environment and your routines as well as the time; you are in a liminal state, and all bets are off. With the changing of the clocks, you are supposed to believe that the time of day is another than it was yesterday, even though the light is the same, and everything else around you is the same.
This disturbance wears off in a day or two, I know, but today, I am annoyed. Or rather, continually confused.
So, let’s get to something a bit more pleasant:

The Knitting:
Now I can finally show you the birthday jumper for Emil: a hood down hoodie, with a henley opening and cables running from the top of the hood right down over the body and sleeves. I made it in lovely soft angora silk tweed from BC Garn, with a bit of nylon to make it sturdier, in a light fingering weight on 2.5 mm needles. So it will be warm, but not too bulky and stuffy for the little guy.
He got to try it on for his afternoon nap and after:

The little birthday boy - and cousin Thomas in the background

For the time being, I prefer having two projects running at a time: one ‘interesting’, with cables or lace or something like that; and one simpler, like a stocking stitch jumper, for TV knitting or while being social. So, I had the cabled birthday jumper and my striped driftwood cardigan; and when the birthday jumper was done, I immediately cast on for a pair of socks – for me, this time. My driftwood is ongoing, now striping down the body.

Remember I got this lovely yarn for my birthday? A skein of Mary Queen of Socks from Superknits in the colourway Feel (not Come Back to Me Colour TV, as I thought I had figured out), a gorgeous tealy turquoise. And so soft: it is MCN, merino, cashmere and nylon.
Almost right away, I found a sock pattern I liked. This is the Water Cycle Socks, a free Ravelry download – always loving those! – and I have been looking forward to knitting them. Not only because I am selfish and love to knit for ME, but also because the last four pairs of socks I’ve knitted were man-sized, and it is so much quicker to knit for my little feet. I have already nearly finished the first sock after a couple of evenings spent on re-watching film trilogies: Back to the Future and Jurassic Park. All of these films are so well known that I can easily handle a bit of lace sock knitting while keeping up with the running and screaming. Not to be disparaging; the words of Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) just popped into my head.
The colour of the yarn suggests to me a tropical sea, maybe the Caribbean, with white-beached islands, palms, sunshine ... and so, the water theme of the pattern fits perfectly: there are waves above the toes and on the heel, raindrops up the instep and front of the leg, and billowing steam or clouds on the back of the leg.

The pattern is well written and easy to follow; the charts are even placed logically on the pages, so that Chart C and D used for the front and back of the leg are on the same page and easily fit on a screen, as well – I haven’t printed the pattern and keep it in a PDF window on my laptop.

As for books – well, I haven’t been reading much this week, what with the boys being around and family dos and all. And the watching of films.
I did go to Audible to buy the second book in James P. Blaylock’s Narbondo series, Homunculus; but so far, I’ve only listened to 22 minutes of it.

On Chop Bard, to which I am a new listener, I devoured Ehren Ziegler’s comments on Romeo & Juliet. This podcast works differently than CraftLit, in that you do not get the whole text read aloud, only salient bits and pieces; so you will want to have the play within reach. I did that, listening and reading – and discussing the play with my boys.
Thomas recently watched the Baz Luhrmann film adaptation (which Ehren Ziegler does not approve of, for many valid reasons) for school, and while in London, they attended a workshop at the Globe with a real live actor, working on how to express various characters through movements and modes of speech. Thomas got to be Tybalt ...
Anyway, after I had listened through the whole story and re-told it to Victor, who didn’t know it beforehand, only as the common concept: two young lovers die; we watched the Baz Luhrmann film together. I critiqued, and we had another good talk.
And then I got to thinking about Rosaline and her side of the story. You know Rosaline, the girl Romeo is moping about when we first meet him; Juliet’s cousin. No? Well, she never appears in the play. But she is there in the storyline, not least as the reason why Romeo and his pals even go to the party at the Capulet house where, of course, he meets Juliet. Rosaline is the catalyst for the whole sequence of events that unfold during those four days in July.
Anyway, if you are into Shakespeare, Chop Bard is great; Ehren really knows his stuff. And he’s on Ravelry.

I’ve just started listening to the Jane Eyre episodes of CraftLit; this is interesting, as I have never read the book or watched any film adaptations of it. I know the title, of course, but only as a title in some vague connection with the Brontë name – one of those books by those sisters ... So now that I have listened to Wuthering Heights by Emily, I will listen to Jane Eyre by Charlotte, both published in 1847 – and all of Heather Ordover’s comments and annotations on biography, Yorkshire, history, &c. And the discussions on Ravelry, too. I know I’ve said it before, and I will probably say it again: if you like books, if you think there are books you ought to read, but never have: go to CraftLit. You will have great works of literature read aloud to you and all the tricky bits explained, all the background filled in. And you can skip the crafty talk, if you want, by going to the JustTheBooks feed.

The opening chapter of Jane Eyre describes how the 10-year old, orphaned Jane lives with her aunt and cousins in her late uncle’s home; how she is mistreated and bullied by her 14-year old cousin, a big fat boy who behaves horribly towards animals and his little cousin and nevertheless is his mother’s darling. The aunt defends her son’s interests (!) to the point where she refuses the tutor’s attempts to improve his diet by cutting down on cakes and sweetmeats, because denying the boy any pleasure is unthinkable. Of course, Jane gets the blame for any alteration between the children and is, apparently frequently, told that she is ungrateful for this useless life she leads at the mercy and generosity of her relatives.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Yes, Charlotte Brontë obviously read Harry Potter. Or maybe it’s the other way round, I’m not sure ...

So, it seems that the film 300 is going to have a sequel, mystifyingly titled 300: Rise of an Empire. I cannot fathom which empire that is supposed to be, nor who or what 300 are referred to.
Apparently, they want to continue the story of the Persian Wars in 480-479 BCE. OK, there is a lot of story to tell, and the trick of throwing Herodotus’ text up in the air and see what lands can be repeated many a time. No Frank Miller this time around, though. But Xerxes is still supposed to be the guy who thinks he is – or maybe is? – a god.

Here’s how it goes according to Herodotus: after the battle at Thermopylai in northern Hellas, where Xerxes was delayed for all of a week in his progress due to the 5 or 6,000 Greek troops assembled there – who dwindled to the famous 300, when the odds became obvious – the Persians continued southward, heading for the really important city states. Athens worked hard to rally the others and present a united front against the invaders, with varying success. Themistocles, who seems to be the lead figure in the new film, recommended building a battle fleet after a prophecy from the then Pythia in Delphi had spoken of a ‘wooden wall’ to protect the Athenians from being wiped out when the Persians destroyed the city. Which they did. After much debate, the battle fleet was, in fact, built, and a naval battle ensued in the strait between Athens and Salamis. The fleet of Persian and allied ships was much larger than the Greek one, of course – but the Persians were landlocked, brilliant horsemen, but no sailors. As soon as things heated up a bit, they panicked, crashed their ships, jumped overboard and all that. So this time, Xerxes suffered a crushing defeat; and in the battle at Plataiai in the following year – alluded to at the end of 300 – the Greeks beat him again, and he dropped the invasion. Overtly, at any rate.

So again: which empire are we talking about? Stretching things somewhat, not least the term ‘empire’, it might possibly be Athens and the subsequent Ionic alliance, in which Athens played an increasingly dominant role during the following decades. Meh. Not convinced. And the ‘300’ part is plain silly.

According to IMdB, the Spartan king Leonidas is not in the film because Gerard Butler didn’t want to do it. Huh?? Leonidas died, people! That’s the whole point of the 300: Spartans do not leave a fight. Either they kill everybody else, and the fight no longer exists, or they die trying. Which they did in this case.

I will probably watch this film when it comes out, just to see what hash they make of the history. The naval battle could be spectacular, if it is done well.

Aside from the Hollywood mangling of history and stories in general, there is the rather disturbing aspect of the way the Persians are presented in this / these film(s): subhuman, grotesque, fantastical. Now, a lot of the bizarre paraphernalia, including Xerxes’ looks and presumed divinity – which is utterly a-historic – derives from the comic book phase of this story-telling, Frank Miller’s version of it. For a skilled reader, this presents no problem: it is quite obvious what is realistic and what isn’t. But there could be a sneaking subtext here: Persians a.k.a. Iranians are the Enemy, they are inherently evil and deserve to be wiped out, because they are a constant threat to our Civilisation and Democracy and the Free World.
This is, of course, what Herodotus says, but he has very good reasons for it: in 480 BCE, the fledgling proto-democracy in Athens was under a very real threat from a huge empire that had spread over the whole Middle East and intended to spread westwards, too. If the Hellenic city states led by Athens had not defeated the Persians when they did, the whole of Hellas would have been subjected to Persian rule. And Rome would not have been capable of stopping them back then, either. So, in the 5th century, Persia really was a threat to what was the beginning of democracy and free thought.
That is not the situation today, though; and the parallel is dangerous. I can well understand those Greeks who take offense at American movie-makers and money-makers abusing their history for their own ends.

Well, then, I will get off my soap box now and enjoy the remainder of today’s sunshine.
Keep happy, keep healthy, keep crafting!

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