Autumn 2013

Autumn 2013

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Summer Holidays

Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Apple Basket! The summer holidays are here, the fresh-baked students are out in force in their white caps, and once in a while, even the weather remembers to be summery.
So, the big news of the week is that I have gotten myself an honest-to-goodness, proper job. Starting in September, I will be teaching Latin propaedeutics (a fancy word for language for beginners) at Aarhus University. This is, of course, very exciting; I have taught Latin in the gymnasium, but now I will have more mature students, who are actually taking the course of their own free will and thus presumably are prepared to work for it.
It has been a while since last I taught, so I will be using the next couple of months to get my brain into gear; funnily enough, even before I knew about this vacancy, I was turned onto Pliny, Catullus, and Seneca, for various reasons.
More on that, no doubt.

The Apple of the Week
This week, I have a story for you about the nature of humans – it is from Plato, appears in the philosophical dialogue Symposion, and it is a fictional myth told by the writer of comedy, Aristophanes. A symposion was, in the Athens of the 5th century BCE, a drinking party for men; at this particular (fictional) event, however, the participants agree to give talks instead of drinking, talks on the subject of Eros. This is the fourth speech in the sequence.
By ‘fictional myth’ I mean a story in the form of a myth, but not a part of ancient Greek mythology: this story was invented by Plato and put into the mouth of Aristophanes. The supernatural elements of myth occur, such as gods and other strange beings.
Consider, if you will, the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen as opposed to the fairy tales collected and recorded by the brothers Grimm: the latter are a part of European folklore from ancient times, presenting old and deep conflicts, warnings, and hopes, and passed down in the oral tradition from generation to generation; while the former were consciously composed and written in the style of fairy tales, by a single author with something specific on his mind.
This fictional myth, then, as allegedly told by Aristophanes, plays its very own part in the grander scheme – Plato’s scheme – of the Symposion and the truths that he wants to impart through that whole text. But that is another story for another day; let’s see what the comedian has to say

On Human Nature

In the beginning, humans were not as we know us now: they were round, like spheres, with four legs and four arms and two faces on the head, so that they were able to look in all directions at once. They were strong, these spherical humans, and happy: they rolled about on their many limbs, doing whatever they pleased and taking no heed of the gods. In fact, they even tried once to oust the king of the gods, Zeus himself, from his throne, because they didn’t want to pay obeisance to him or bring offerings to the gods.
This would not do – after all, what are humans good for if they don’t bring offerings? And daring to threaten Zeus himself! The gods struck back: Zeus teamed up with Apollo, the god of surgery, and cut the spherical humans in half. Just like that. Apollo drew the edges of the skin together over the cut and sewed them up right at the middle (that’s where the navel comes from), and he turned their faces around so that the halved humans now had a front and a backside. There they stood, cut in half and trying to find their balance on only two legs.
And Zeus uttered a warning to them: if they did not learn to behave after this, to show the gods the respect they deserved, they would be cut in half once more. Then they would be quite flat, hopping around on one leg.

Zeus was happy with his plan: now the humans would be properly weakened and chastised, and they would bring offerings to the gods as they ought to.

Now, Zeus soon realised that the offerings weren’t really happening as they should; so he went to find out what had gone wrong. He discovered that the halved humans were unhappy: they wanted to be whole again, so they spent all their time wobbling about on their two legs, desperately searching for their other half – not necessarily their better half, but the other one, the one that had been cut away. And when they happened to find this other half, they clung to each other with all of their four arms and wouldn’t let go; they forgot to not only go to the temples to bring offerings, which was bad enough, but to work and to eat, and in the end they lay down to die, still clinging to their other half.
That, of course, would not do. Zeus put Apollo to work again; this time, the divine surgeon moved the sexual organs of the halved humans round onto their new front (before, they had been on the side, the front not having been there at all). And so, the halved humans were able to come together with their other halves and become one flesh for a little while – and afterwards in good cheer go back to their work, not forgetting to eat and, most important of all, go to the temples to bring offerings to the gods.

So, this is how humans became humans in search of love. And this is also why some seek a man and some seek a woman: the spherical humans had three genders, male, female, and mixed; when they were divided, the male spheres became two men, the female spheres became two women, and the mixed gender spheres became a man and a woman – all searching for the one person who can make them whole again.

The Knitting
I have started a new project. Again.
Hi, my name is Dorthe, and I am a compulsive on-caster.
This time, though, it is actually an old project, pulled out of hibernation and re-invented. At some point last year, I made a cable-and-lace edging for a top, intending to pick up stitches and work up from there; but I never really got round to it. So now, I am re-using the name and the project page – and even the yarn from another project: my Flirt tee, a Rowan pattern and for once made in the called-for yarn – which is almost unheard of for me.
I bought the yarn for it, Rowan 4-ply cotton, in Edinburgh, which means it must have been in 2006, on sale because the colour was discontinued, and made the top. Very cute, I liked it and wore it quite a bit; and then I shed a lot of weight, and the top was too big. It has been sitting around for quite a while without any purpose – and now it is frogged.
And the yarn is going into another tee, the Rondeur by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark, from Knitty. There is not much to photograph yet, so the pics will have to wait till next week.

On the other hand, I have finished something, as well: some of the secret stuff that I can’t tell you about yet. Sorry about that; you will just have to wait until the gifts are given, and then all will be revealed.

Finally, there are visible developments on the V neckjumper for Victor: the body is done, and with it the black stripes in the rib. Similar stripes are underway on the neck edging; and soon, I can start the sleeves. I will only be able to finish them, though, in about two weeks’ time, as Victor and Thomas are going camping with my parents in a couple of days and will be gone for ten days – and I want to try the jumper on the boy before doing the cuffs.

The ‘denim’ skirt is just creeping along, becoming slowly longer. It still hasn’t reached even mini skirt length, so there is a ways to go yet. I’m not sure whether I’m bored with it, or it’s merely that it has been pushed aside for other things and thus seems to be going nowhere. I will have to give it some attention and see how it goes.

The Books
After having struggled with the CraftLit app to listen to the ongoing subscriber audio for The Great Gatsby (Just The Benefits), The Canterbury Tales, and Bleak House, I finally became so frustrated with it that I went to find the two older texts on Librivox.
I am not sure whether it is the app or my unstable wifi that is the trouble; all I know is that I get to listen to a minute or two once in a while, and then the thing shuts down on me. Grrr.
For Bleak House, I found the version that Heather is using, read by Mil Nicholson; that one I’m saving for later.

The complete version of The Canterbury Tales, the D. Laing Purves (1838-1873)edition with preface, biography and notes, is performed by several readers of varying skill. Such is the world of Librivox.
One of the readers is ‘our’ very own Chip, well known to listeners of CraftLit & Just The Books. I have to say, though, much as I enjoy Chip’s voice and diction, that he absolutely murders the Latin quotations. Shudder. But he is much better than, say, the girl (I use this term consciously) who reads the Wife of Bath, hesitating at words and not having edited out throat-clearings and tappings of the microphone. And the woman reading the Merchant’s Tale ... well, you get what you pay for. It just reminds you how much editing must go into professional recordings – and how much volunteer work goes into the good Librivox recordings, too.

The life of Geoffrey Chaucer himself is interesting: his primary occupation for quite a few years was as a customs officer, though he managed to travel extensively in the European mainland and possibly met Dante and Petrarca. Eventually, he was paid for his writing, as well, though he was never free of the need to earn a living by working; his wife, Philippa, was a lady-in-waiting to the queen of the same name.
Chaucer began the Canterbury Tales when about forty years of age, planning a huge work: 32 pilgrims meet up on their way to Canterbury to pay homage to St. Thomas, the murdered archbishop, and it is decided that they each tell two stories on their way to Canterbury and two stories on the way home. That is 128 stories, plus the setup and presentation of them all, the events at Canterbury, and the home-coming including the dinner awarded the best story teller. As it turned out, Chaucer left behind an unfinished work when he died of unknown causes at fifty-seven; only 23 of the pilgrims get to even tell their first story.

The English language owes a huge debt to Chaucer: a lot of words are first attested in his work, as he wrote in Medieval English as opposed to Latin or French. To a modern reader, the text may look odd, with strange spellings and unusual words; it becomes a lot easier if you read it out loud in an everyday diction – and, additionally, knowing Danish and/or German helps a lot with the old Saxon words that have gone out of use in English since Chaucer’s day.
A few examples: hent = fetch, brenn = burn, barm = bosom; there are many more, of course.
The stories themselves deal with the eternal themes: sex and/or love, relationships, jealousy, adultery, &c. Some are in high style, dramatic and with a pious morale, others are fun and ribald.

For a little light reading, Hermione Granger-style, I have picked up The Latin Language by L. R. Palmer; a thorough walk-through of the history and peculiarities of Latin – in preparation, of course, for teaching. Not that first-year students will be much concerned with either the influence of Oscan or the subtleties in Caesar’s choice of vocabulary; but it is nice to get my brain into that train of thought again. And it is quite interesting to discover how much more I get out of the book now than I did when I actually took the course twenty years ago.

On a lighter note, I have gobbled up Politi by Jo Nesbø, the tenth instalment in the Harry Hole-series; this will be coming out as Police in September, I think. It came out in Danish simultaneously with the Norwegian release.
Well, everybody – or nearly everybody – thought that book 9 was the final in the series; but it turns out there is another one. Which is rumoured to be the final one.
I’ll try to comment without giving any spoilers: a murderer is at large in Oslo, and the team of familiar police officers try to catch him. There are numerous suspects, and several members of the team at some point find themselves alone with someone who may be a psychopathic serial killer.
Hmm, that went well, don’t you think?

Nesbø seems to have a fondness for psychological and psychiatric peculiarities, not to say disorders, in his characters; I am all for that, but he is a bit heavy-handed with it, in my opinion, having characters quote doctors and evaluations instead of just showing us their behaviour and reactions.
One example – no spoiler, if you have read any of the books you know this already – is Beate Lønn, the female police officer who recognises every face she has ever seen: Nesbø apparently wants her to have Asperger’s and doesn’t content himself with letting others refer to her as ‘Rain Man’ or as ‘coming from Mars’; he has her running, slipping on wet grass, and reflecting that one symptom of Asperger’s is clumsiness.
Well, yes, it often is – but not every Aspie is clumsy, and not every Aspie has spectacularly extraordinary powers.
And who thinks like a list of symptoms? Oh alright, come to think of it, someone on the autism spectrum might actually do that; so, ok, I’ll let him get away with that one.
On the other hand, slipping when running on wet grass is not unusually clumsy, is it?

The story itself is a fast-paced, page-turning thriller, no problem there – only that my hours of sleep were somewhat curtailed for a few nights.

Well, that is it for this week. Thank you for stopping by; I hope you have a wonderful week, be it working or holidaying – and I will be back.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Apple Basket!
This week, we of the northerly persuasion are celebrating Midsummer, and I will relate various traditions from this very local part of the world, Viborg – I apologise beforehand to anybody living in the Southern Hemisphere for leaving you out.
I have some musings on running in summer weather, rain and shine; there is summer knitting going on; and my book of the week also has a summery theme – it is The Great Gatsby.
So, let’s dive in!

The Apple of the Week
It is Midsummer! Summer Solstice, the longest day and the shortest night of the year.
Did you, like Daisy Buchanan, watch for the longest day of the year and then forget? Probably not: you have more sense and presence than that, don’t you? (And I have a sneaking suspicion that her distractedness is an affectation, anyway.)

The shortest night is, like the other astronomical high points of the year, imbued with magic and special powers.
This is the time when the Sun turns around and we are once again headed for winter and darkness. Of course, it is not the Sun who turns around and moves away from us, merely the effect of Earth tilting on its axis so that the sunlight in winter reaches us at a shallower angle.
But to ancient peoples knowing nothing of orbital astronomy, the effect is the main thing: right now, on Friday 21st June, is the longest day of the year, and that has to be special.
All around the world, the solstices and equinoxes have special significances and rites or traditions connected to them. Maybe not surprisingly, Midsummer festivals are most widespread in the northernmost parts of the hemisphere, where the days are really long and even unbroken, with the midnight sun reigning to the far north; even here, it doesn’t get quite dark at night, though the sun does go down for a few hours.
The Midsummer bonfires celebrating the Sun and the light are well known and attested – and around these parts, often a wet and windy affair. There is a running joke that the weather is the same on Christmas Eve and on St. Hans (St. John’s) Eve: 12 degrees and raining. And though we have had a couple of white Christmases lately, it is not far off; today, it’s 15-16 degrees, grey and wet and windy. So, all the mayors around the country preparing their bonfire speeches for tonight may have smaller audiences than they would like.

Here in Viborg, the ‘official’ bonfire is lit on a raft out on the lake, with the speeches and songs taking place at Borgvold, a park and restaurant area right on the water’s edge. We haven’t usually gone, as it is rather late for smaller children, particularly on a school night; and now, my boys aren’t really all that interested. They would rather have a small bonfire in the garden, if the weather behaves.

The official celebrations this year are connected to the festivities surrounding the Hærvejsmarch which takes place during the last weekend of June, but have already begun this weekend. Hærvejen (Army Road), Ochsenweg (Cattle Road) in German, is the ancient cattle and military road starting in Viborg and leading southwards to Germany – and ultimately, for wandering pilgrims, to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
Viborg is an ancient holy site: the vi- part means holy or sacred and is derived from an Indo-European root *weik- meaning ‘choose, separate, set apart’. We find words from that root in various modern languages: English victim from Latin victima originally denotes a sacrificial animal, chosen to be a gift for the god(s). The same root also appears in wicca meaning ‘sorcerer’.
And borg or bjerg corresponds to burg and means hill or hill-fort.
So, Viborg is ‘the sacred place on the hill’, has been since the 9th century CE, and thus has been long established as the appropriate place to set out from for a pilgrim’s walk to the other end of Europe.

The more modest, though taxing enough, way to do it is to walk 45 kilometres each day on Saturday and Sunday; women can choose the 40 k route, and there are shorter walks for less able persons and families with small children.
For the more adventurous, there is a seven-day pilgrim walk to sites around Viborg during next week, or the Hærvej relay run starting in Flensburg, about 200 kilometres south of here and ending today.
There will be festivities all week; on Thursday, I will be telling a little story at Café Fredina along with a couple of others from the story tellers’ club (Viborg Fortællekreds). Rather exciting: I am not at all used to performing in public.

I have been out running my little bits during the week, in varying weather; we have rather humid conditions for the time being, with warm temperatures at first and now cooler. On Wednesday, it was grey and rainy, so I thought it would be rather cool and put on my long-sleeved skiing undershirt – which quickly turned out to be a huge mistake: the sun came out when I did, and it was warm (18 degrees) and muggy. Then on Saturday, it was 15 degrees and grey, and I put on a short-sleeved tee; much better, though my hands were cold all through the run.
I keep saying ‘run’ – actually, I’m alternating running and walking, now 3 minutes of each for 30 minutes in all. I have some residual soreness in my right ankle now; I do hope it’s not the peroneal tendonitis coming back. That, I can really do without.
They were clean once, I promise!
I so enjoy getting out there, feeling the air and watching the lush, green foliage come out and change colour, the trees blossoming, running barefoot in wet grass – this week, I have run the last of the 3-minute intervals without shoes. To begin with, I run in Vibram FiveFingers SeeYa, the most light-weight of them all, so taking them off is really mostly a matter of conditioning the soles of my feet; there is no difference in support or cushioning or angling. But it’s fun to be completely barefoot for a bit.

The Knitting
The Ninja cowl is snoozing for now, while I work on more summery projects; like the secret stuff, still, that is coming along very nicely. I expect to finish it up during next week, and then there will be a pattern coming out.

I started swatching for, and working on, a summer skirt, in Allino from BC Garn. This is a sport weight cotton-linen blend; the two fibres give the yarn a slightly variegated look, and I chose a dark, denim-ish blue to make the skirt as versatile as a pair of jeans. So far, that plan seems to be working: whenever the skirt project happens to bundle up to something else, the yarns look good together. The skirt itself is worked top down in a chevron pattern, with the chevrons growing gradually wider downwards. Very simple, very easy. Again, there will be a pattern coming out soon.

Less summery, but also moving along, is the V neck jumper for Victor; I have almost finished the body now and have to start thinking about the rib at the bottom.

The Books
As so often, when a big film comes out, I go to my Read The Book default setting. In many cases, this is the thing to do, and the film can take care of itself; sometimes, I do both.
In the case of the Shakespeare plays for which I catch the commentary on Chop Bard, I listen, read, and watch the films – for Hamlet, I watched two, both the David Tennant version and the Kenneth Branagh one.
And I am really looking forward to Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, by the way.

Now, we have The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, filmed by Baz Luhrman and with Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby himself; I may watch this at some point, but I feel no particular rush to do so.
Ages ago, I read the book; this was one of the dozens of books, literary classics and otherwise, that I read in Danish simply because they were sitting on the book shelves in the living room at home. So I may have been 11 when I read this one first time around, and I wasn’t terribly impressed.
Now, I have the Audible version read by Jake Gyllenhaal (and generously shared by my sister; we do regular audio book swaps), I have Heather’s Just The Benefits commentary – at least, when the app and the wifi decide to play nice once in a while – and I started off by listening to the BBC World Book Club (free podcast) episode about the book. And, of course, I have years of living and reading experience in which to anchor this story, so this time, I am terribly impressed.
The language is richly poetic, mellifluous and poignant, like honey with flakes of chilli in it; Fitzgerald describes people, emotions, actions and reactions with surprising and evocative turns of phrase. The central plot is a love story, but of course there is more, not least pointed commentary on class and social censure: the value ascribed to persons of different social and economic standing – and personality.
In case anyone doesn’t know already, the story takes place in the summer of 1922 in Long Island and New York; the narrator, Nick Carraway, rents a house by the shore while working in the city and finds himself a neighbour to Gatsby, of whom he hears numerous more or less outrageous rumours before meeting the man himself at one of his many extravagant house parties. Gatsby is in love with Nick’s cousin, Daisy, who is married to the very unpleasant Tom Buchanan; he has worked his way from nothing to nouveau riche – and so still nothing in the eyes of the ones coming from old money – in order to be worthy of Daisy.
I have a feeling that the end is going to be heart-breaking ...

I have found another literary podcast – or rather, I have finally gotten round to taking a proper look (or listen) at a podcast mentioned by Heather on CraftLit some time ago, I’m not sure when: in my time, it was sometime last winter, maybe, in real CraftLit time, it was probably years ago. Anyway, this is Forgotten Classics with Julie D.; and it does just what it says on the tin. Julie takes classic books that are forgotten and unread by most, and reads them out loud in her mellow voice.
I subscribed on iTunes a while back, and it offers me episode 198 as the first. I could go back to the beginning via the archive on the Forgotten Classics website, of course, and I may do that some day. For now, I have begun listening to the book that begins in episode 200: The Unforeseen by Dorothy Macardle. This is an Irish story, set in the 1930’s, about 40-something Virgilia, her daughter Nan, and Virgilia’s new ability to apparently see into the future.
I find myself relating to the mothering theme: the intermingled difficulty and pride in allowing your fledglings to fly off and make their own mistakes; Nan has gone off to London to become an artist, and Virgilia would prefer her to come home, but knows that the young woman needs to live her own life, at her own risk.
My boys are still at home, all of them – but in only a year’s time, two of them may be ready to move on: Andreas will finish his IT education and go off to work, and Thomas will finish school and may want to travel and/or work before starting whatever higher education he chooses.
So it goes.
Virgilia has a lovely cottage in Ireland, south of Dublin, that Nan comes back to for the summer – for this is another summer book, beginning in early June. Whenever they need to go shopping, they bicycle into Dublin; having been there a couple of years ago, I enjoy the mention of specific street names and places.

Well, this is it for this week – I am going to go and enjoy the summer before it starts raining again :o)
I hope you have a great week; I will be back next week with more summer shenanigans.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Time Traveller

Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Apple Basket!
I’ll be brief this week: my elbow is bugging me, and I probably shouldn’t type too much. I’m still trying to figure out what to call it; ‘tennis elbow’ sounds ridiculous, and ‘chronic strain injury’ is too dramatic, like I’m appealing for sympathy. Anyway, I try to not overdo things, though it can be difficult at times, not least when gardening, as I did yesterday. So ouch.

But I do have a little story for you:
The other day, I was going out to take care of the Tardis (mine is in the guise of a 1998, dark blue Mondeo): check the oil and the coolant and stuff. Thomas was giving me a hand, both because of that stupid elbow and because, well, come August, he can start taking his driver’s licence, so he might as well get acquainted.
And then the lever to pop open the bonnet didn’t work. He pulled, I pulled, nothing happened. Thomas prized open the panelling to try looking for the wire – no luck.
So I tried phoning the Ford garage to see if they had any tips & tricks to deal with it. I got hold of Kurt, who asked me: ‘Is this because you aren’t pulling hard enough?’
Yes, that is what he said. So in case any of you were wondering: the Stereotypical Male Chauvinist Mechanic is not an extinct species.
Now, I very rarely explode and yell at people; instead, I politely and patiently explained that A: I’d had my 17-year old son pulling at it, and B: it usually works. So the guy suggested it might be a broken wire (yup, that’s what we thought and why I called), checked his calendar and told me he could see the Tardis (I did refer to it as a Mondeo in this context, don’t worry) next Thursday. I said I’d call back.
Then, I phoned my dad: he has had several Mondeos and might have encountered the same problem. He suggested the catch could be stuck and to press down on the bonnet while pulling the lever. That worked. Straightaway and for free.
So, the Tardis got some much needed oil and coolant, the catch got some grease – and I will not ever be contacting the Ford garage again. I may not get mad at once, but I do get pissed off and carry a grudge, when needed.

The Knitting
Once again, there is not much to tell on the knitting front: I am working on the body of the V for Victor jumper. This is truly TV knitting, in the sense that I don’t have to look at it much, and also that I need some form of entertainment while knitting. Straight up – or down, as the case may be – in nearly plain stocking stitch doesn’t occupy too much of my attention; so, I can watch whatever we’re watching, or read, or meditate in between.

And then there’s the secret stuff. Coming along, pattern on the way, you know the drill.
So, not much to tell right now. There will be more, I promise.

I did, though, check out the sale on Garn Garagen earlier this week: they will no longer be selling the KnitPro needles and so had discounts on them. I threw a bunch of stuff in the virtual shopping basket, looked through them to decide what I actually needed, and ended up ordering six items. In the afternoon, they called me to say that they only had three of those items; apparently, their system had become overloaded and confused because of the traffic. Which left me with a single 80 cm wire for the interchangeable circs, and two shade cards.

After I bought the Samarkand lambswool & silk in Saltum for my Jane Eyre shawl, I went online to look some more at what they have and soon decided to get a couple of shade cards, one for the Samarkand and one for Coast, a lace-weight lambswool & cotton mix. Both these yarns are surprisingly inexpensive, soft, and come in a variety of colours.
I love shade cards. They are so full of promise and possibility: within minutes, I can think of literally a dozen things to knit, cardigans and tees and shawls and mitts and ...

The Books
Spoiler alert! In the next bit, I will be discussing The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger in some detail, but without revealing major plot points or the ending of the book.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a bit about it and mentioned that I had, at first, been slightly uncomfortable due to Lolita associations. It seemed to me that the relationship between the adult Henry and the child Claire was somewhat odd and slightly wrong, distorted – because of the underlying knowledge, Henry’s and the reader’s, that she will grow up to be his wife, there is a sexual tone to a lot of it.
The other day, my sister and I talked about this: she had been surprised at this way of viewing the relationship, herself seeing it as deep, romantic love. And it is true: Henry and Claire are very much in love, and Henry is very careful not to reveal too much too soon to Claire, while she is growing up – and to deflect her sexual advances, when she is a teenager.
I think my initial resistance to Henry and thus to the story may be due partly to the voice of the male reader that grated on me a bit, partly to the delayed explanation for the way Henry behaves. We are told of his illegal activities, his stealing and lock-picking and violence and multiple arrests, before it is made clear why all this is necessary for him: he repeatedly finds himself naked in a strange time and place and often has to resort to stealing or robbing to, well, be clothed, for one thing.
Over the course of the story, as the lives of Henry and Claire unfold, his plight becomes clear, and the latter part of it is heart-breaking.

This week, I have been listening to The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings, which is maybe best known as a film starring George Clooney as the first-person narrator, Matt King. Matt’s wife, Joanie (who for some obscure reason is called Elizabeth in the film), is in a coma after a boating accident, and Matt has to deal with the possibility of her dying. At the same time, he is trying to get to know his daughters, 10-year old Scottie and 18-year old Alex – the busy, distant dad syndrome – and needs to decide on whether to sell his family’s land, inherited from his great-grandfather’s plantation. Hence the title: can the now living descendants of the people who created the family fortune live up to it all, make something of their own lives, or are they just riding the waves?
There are, of course, more twists to the story, but I am not going to tell you – go read the book, or listen to it. I have no idea whether to recommend the film: I imagine it’s beautiful, with Hawaiian beaches and sunsets and George Clooney and the ocean and all. On the other hand, it’s supposed to be good for your brain to conjure up those images yourself.

So, that will be all for now – I hope you have a lovely week, and I will be back with more!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Amled's Revenge

Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Apple Basket! We are having wonderful June weather, sunshine and temperatures soaring to nearly 20 C some days – what more can one expect from a Danish summer?
Apart from hay fever, of course; the pollen season is hitting late but hard this year after the long, cold spring, and my sinuses are not too happy. The head cold that snuck up on me a few weeks ago doesn’t really want to go away, either, so I’m stuck with the sniffles, some scratchiness in my throat and a touch of conjunctivitis. Darn grass pollen season.
It’s affecting my running a bit, as well: I don’t run when I’m feeling off, so lately, it’s been only two or three times a week instead of four. But never mind; I am not in any rush, my tendons are probably better off for getting a chance to build up their strength slowly – and I am not signed up for any race that could push me into training more than I am properly ready for.

I have some great news this week: Victor was accepted into the Talent Programme at his music school! He auditioned last Monday, and this Monday he got the reply (after a whole week of waiting!); they had 8 spots for 18 applicants and only accepted one classical guitarist this year, so yay! This means he will be having 45 min solo lessons instead of the usual 25 min, acoustic training, and more collaboration with another guitarist – we’ve been hearing Renaissance lute music from other Talent Programme guitarists, so that should be fun.

I am beginning to understand the problem with social networking taking up too much (work) time: I'm on Ravelry, my primary - and first - social site, recently also Goodreads, and just lately, I've set up a profile on LinkedIn (still in progress). So, checking all of those, making new contacts, joining groups and following discussions, and checking email on two accounts can take quite a bite out of a day, if one is not careful. So, I'm working on finding the balance that keeps me satisfied: keeping up sufficiently without making me feel that I'm wasting time. As long as I'm doing something productive, it's not all bad, I think: connecting, advertising myself, learning - that's all good. Falling into the Ravelry hole of reading long, chatty threads or ogling patterns I don't have time to knit - not so good.

The Knitting
It seems that my recent bout of I-have-too-many-wips is turning into the baseline rather than the exception: I keep coming up with things I want to knit, either from lovely, tempting patterns (I am looking at you, Ravelry!) or stuff I make up unique, original designs. Some of these projects have deadlines (birth day and birthdays), and some of them I just want to finish.
Deep breath. I’ll get there, one row at a time. As you know, having to knit All The Things is not exactly a punishment for me – which is probably why I have too many wips in the first place.

One example from this week: having the gorgeous skein of Lotus Mimi mink yarn that I mentioned last week, I was vaguely considering making a cowl or a scarf with it, something soft to go around my neck – at some point before next winter. No rush, no need to cast on right now, it can wait.
And then comes the invitation to the third What (else) Would Madame Defarge Knit? KAL: the pretty, lacy, cabled cowl inspired by Marian Halcombe in The Woman in White. So of course I had to see if The Lady Is A Ninja could be done in lace weight mink yarn.
Result so far: I went down to a needle size 3 mm (from the 4 – 4.5 mm called for in the pattern) to get a fabric I liked, made some calculations, and added two horizontal repeats, giving me 12 repeats instead of 10.
I’ve still only done the garter stitch border, so it doesn’t look like much yet.

And then I cast on for something new that I can’t tell you about just yet – it’s looking good, though, after the obligatory three froggings of the first bit, so watch this space!

Victor’s V neck jumper is coming along nicely; as soon as I had swatched, measured and crunched the numbers in the stitch and row counts, it was pretty straightforward. When I reached the bottom of the V and the armholes, there was more measuring done, trying the shoulder part on the boy himself, to see if my calculations were good. And they were; so now I’m working in the round, with no decreases for feminine waist shaping to worry about.
The remainder of the body will be TV knitting – and even book knitting: I have Kindle for PC now (with a little help from  my tech savvy kids), and I’m reading Treasure Island on it. No need for a heavy object to keep the book lying flat, needing to be moved for every turn of the page.

The Apple of the Week
This week, we get to the end of the Amled story; we follow the party to England and see how Amled makes an impression on the king. And we follow Amled back home, of course, to see how he deals with his uncle. No spoilers – I’ll just give you the story and a few notes afterwards.

SAXO: The Deeds of the Danes (Gesta Danorum)
Book 3, chapter 6

17                         When the party arrived in Britain, the delegates approached the king to hand over the letter which they believed was to be the end of another, but which in reality pointed themselves towards death. The king, pretending nothing was amiss, greeted them in a friendly and hospitable manner. What happened now, tough, was that Amled rejected all the royal dishes served, as if they were low fare. He displayed a strange abstinence, politely refused all of the sumptuous servings, and touched neither food nor drink. Everyone was amazed that a young man from a foreign country could turn up his nose at the choice delicacies and luxurious dishes offered by the royal tables, as if they were grub for peasants. So when the king ended the meal and said good night to his friends, he sent one of them to lurk in the guests’ bedchamber and listen to what they talked about during the night.
18                        Now, then, Amled’s two companions asked him why he at dinner had let all of the food be as if it were poison, and Amled replied that the bread had been soaked in blood, that the drink had tasted of iron, and that the meats had been hewn through with a stench of corpses and completely spoiled by a reek of death and burial. He added that the king had the eyes of a slave, and that the queen on three instances had behaved like a bondswoman – so it was not so much the feast itself as those who had given the feast, whom he targeted with his rudeness. His companions immediately began chiding him for being still not right in the head, and laughed maliciously at his thus criticising that which he ought to praise, and complaining about things that were just fine, when he in this manner disrespectfully denigrated an outstanding king and a woman presenting herself most civilly, and heaped on two people who deserved honour and fame, the most humiliating insults.
19                         The king, hearing this from his servant, declared that the one who had spoken thus must be either superhumanly gifted or correspondingly mad – and with these few words he gauged the true depth of what Amled was doing. He then summoned his groundskeeper and asked him where he had gotten the bread. As he replied that it had been made by the king’s own baker, the king further asked where the grain for it had grown, and if there was any reason to believe that someone had been killed in that spot. The groundskeeper replied that not far away, there was a field showing clear signs of a large number of deaths at some time in the past, for it was littered with the ancient bones of the slain men. That he had had sown in the spring, for he reckoned that it would be more fertile than the other fields and would yield a rich crop. Thus it was not impossible that these rotten remains had given a bad taste to the bread. From this reply the king concluded that Amled had spoken the truth, and he now also wanted to know where the meat had come from. The groundskeeper explained that his pigs by negligence had escaped the sty and had eaten the rotten corpse of a robber, and this could maybe have given the taste of their flesh a hint of rottenness. When the king understood that Amled had been right about this too, he asked him what the liquid was from which he had mixed the drinks. He received the answer that there had been honeycombs and water in the mix, and when the stream had been pointed out to him whence the water came, and a deep hole had been dug in it, he found several rusty swords from which one might suspect that the water had gotten an off taste. Others say that Amled rejected the drink because he was able to taste from it that the bees had sought food in the belly of a corpse, and so the problem lay in a taste that originated in the honeycombs.
20                       When the king saw that a convincing explanation cold be made for the taste that Amled had complained about, he realised that Amled’s harsh words about his own unworthy eyes had to point at something bad in his own heritage, so he secretly sought out his mother and asked her who his father was. She protested that she had never lain with anyone but the king, but when he threatened to torture the truth from her, he was told that he was the son of a slave. So it took coercion to discover why Amled had spoken badly of his heritage.
The king, of course, was quite embarrassed over his heritage, but at the same time thrilled at the cleverness of the young man, and he then asked him why he had exposed the queen with that rude accusation of her behaving like a slave. It pained him that his guest in his nocturnal talk had raised doubts about the nobility of his wife – but he was now informed that she had indeed been born to a bondswoman. For Amled explained that he had noticed three occasions on which she had acted like a slave: the first was that she drew her cloak over her head like a serving girl, the second that she hitched up her skirts when walking, and the third that she picked between her teeth with a toothpick and ate the bits of food she dug out. He also told him that her mother had been captured and made a slave – for he was not to believe that she only behaved like a slave, she was actually born a slave.
21                         In deep admiration of his skills, which he regarded as a sort of divine gift, the king gave him his daughter in marriage, and everything that he said he took as a testimonial from heaven. As for his companions, the king followed the orders from his friend and had them hanged the next day. It was a service done to a friend, but Amled pretended that it was an offence which he regarded most severely, and for blood money, the king made him a payment of gold which he later in secret had melted down and placed inside a pair of hollowed-out wooden staffs.
22                        When he had remained with the king a year, he asked leave to travel, and he thus returned to his homeland not carrying anything with him from his rich and royal equipment but the staffs containing the gold. As soon as he landed in Jutland, he changed his new appearance back into the old, and the dignified behaviour he had now become accustomed to, he carefully replaced with his usual foolery.
When he stepped into the hall where they were celebrating his wake, standing there filthy from head to foot, it came as a shock to everyone in the hall that the rumours of his death had been false. In the end, though, the terror turned to mirth, and all the guests began making fun of each other because the man they were having the wake for as though he were dead, was standing there in front of them very much alive. When they asked about his companions, he held out his staffs and said, ‘This is one, and this is the other.’ And whether that was more truth or joke is impossible to say. For even though most of them took his remark to be pure nonsense, he kept closely to the truth inasmuch as he, instead of speaking of the dead men themselves, spoke of the blood money he had been paid for them.
23                        He now joined the cupbearers and began heartily toasting the guests to liven up the party even more. And to keep his loose shirt from getting in his way when he went about, he strapped his sword belt around his waist, after which he repeatedly drew the sword from its scabbard and on purpose pricked his own fingers on the point. In the end, the men around him had an iron bolt run through both sword and scabbard.
To further his own devious plans, he kept on serving wine for the noble lords: he handed them cup after cup and poured so much wine into them that they were unable to stand on their feet from inebriation, but fell asleep in the hall itself and used the dining hall as a bedchamber.
24                       When he now saw that they were easy to set upon, he made up his mind that now was the time to carry out his plan. He got out the sticks he had readied a long time ago, from their hiding place, and went into the hall where the noble lords lay all over the floor, puking and senseless from drink. In here, the walls were covered by the blanket his mother had made, and he now cut the straps to let it fall down. This blanket he laid over the snoring men, and with the hooked sticks he gathered the knots into a tangle so inextricable that none of those who lay under it were able to get up, no matter how hard they tried. Then, he set the house on fire, and while the flames rose and the fire spread soon to envelop the building and devour all of the king’s hall, they all were caught in it, whether they slept soundly or tried in vain to get to their feet.
25                        After this, Amled went to Fenge’s bedchamber (for Fenge had been led to his quarters earlier by all of his retinue). His sword happened to hang by the bed, and Amled snatched it and hung up his own instead. Then he woke his uncle and told him that his nobles were burning to death: now Amled was here, armed with his old hooks and burning with desire to have his well-deserved revenge for the murder of his father. At these words, Fenge jumped out of bed, but could not find his own sword, and while he tried in vain to pull the strange one out of its scabbard, he was killed.

Here we see a brave man! A man who deserved to win eternal renown! He cleverly armed himself with false simplicity and kept his true wits that outshone ordinary human capabilities, well hidden behind an amazing display of madness. And so he succeeded in not only saving his own life with a ruse, but also, using the same ruse, in the end achieving revenge for the murder of his father. So cunningly he looked out for himself, so bravely he avenged his father, that we have difficulty in deciding which was the largest, his courage or his cleverness.
§19: So, are Amled’s oblique comments the result of uncanny perspicacity or just lucky guesses? Well, given the mortality rate and the level of physical brutality displayed in the day (we really live in an age of unprecedented physical safety), it would perhaps not be too much of a stretch to assume some interference with death and the dead at one or more stages in the production of the foodstuffs. Grain grows on soil into which blood may well have seeped at some point; pigs are well-known to eat anything, including corpses; and water runs over and through just about everything. Amled is clever enough to know this and to choose sufficiently vague modes of expressing himself to let the king find his words confirmed.
§20: As for the heritage of the king himself and his queen ... Amled obviously has knowledge of her birth to a bondswoman, maybe obtained only after the fact, so to speak: he studied her body language and habits during the initial feast and then sought out confirmation of his suspicions. And should it have turned out that she was not born a slave, then at least he had from the beginning only said that she behaved like one.
Likewise concerning the king: Amled’s first claim was that he had the eyes of a slave, which can be construed to mean a variety of things – maybe Amled got lucky on this one, that the father of the king actually was a slave (or could be, at least).
§24: Were you shocked by the brutality in this? The calm arson and burning alive, not of Fenge himself, but of his courtiers, may seem excessive – but Amled is establishing himself as the new king and thus needs a secure power base. He has to get rid of those who would have remained loyal to Fenge: just as well kill them now instead of later, when they pose a direct threat.

This is obviously not the end of Amled: Saxo goes on to tell of his conquests and exploits, his new marriage (the daughter of the English king, mentioned in §21, dies), and finally, his death in battle years later. As this is a history book and not a tragedy, the characters live out their lives and do not all die at once in a huge, dramatic scene.
Shakespeare is compelled by his genre to kill Hamlet off – along with quite a few others – at the end of the single story, the revenge story; and he is, of course, perfectly entitled to meddle with the story to suit his own needs.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief foray into the world of Amled before Shakespeare, before Denmark as a whole, and almost before the Vikings.

That is it for this week – I hope you have a great week, and I will be back soon.
Keep happy, keep healthy, keep crafting!