Autumn 2013

Autumn 2013

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Internet Access

Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Apple Basket!

Well, this has been a busy week.
Being the end of the month, the deadline for the FWG short story contest came around (more on that); the monthly meeting in the Viborg story tellers’ guild was on Monday (and this time, I actually told a story to get feedback on it); I had to figure out how to get paid for my teaching (I could choose to report the number of working hours each month or have the complete number of hours for the semester divided equally between the five months of it – I chose the latter to have a more regular income).

This afternoon, it’s time for the monthly local crafting café – it’s actually been five months since I was there last, due to a spot of ill health (May), summer holidays (June & July), and the baby blessing in August.
Oh, and my parents are coming over for dinner tonight, as I won’t be here for coffee. If you are not Danish, let me tell you that afternoon coffee, including bread & cheese & jam and / or cake, is quite an institution around these parts. The appropriate time is 3 p.m., and any deviation from this needs to be spelled out, if you’re inviting. So, having a crafting group meeting from 2 till 4 p.m. on a Sunday can be somewhat disruptive.

In between, I have been devising a little written test for my students, to see how they are doing and to give them a chance of trying out the format for the exam in December. I’ll spring it on them on Tuesday and have them do it in one of the two lessons. (And I can knit while watching them!)

The weather has really turned towards autumn – the lovely, bright, crisp autumn weather, happily, not (yet) the grey and rainy kind. Leaves are yellowing and beginning to fall, there is a threat of frost in the nights; and I want to knit big, woolly jumpers.

As mentioned, the September stories for the FWG contest are in; the deadline for the votes is tomorrow, so nobody knows anything about the results yet – except that 32 writers have submitted stories, which is lovely. And as ever, it is quite difficult to narrow the votes down to three favourite stories ... I am going to have to work on that.

Anyway, the theme this month has been SEPTEMBER TRICKSTER, and the highlights: a trickster, devious or dishonest behaviour, and a bag containing something fraudulent or stolen.

So, I give you my story as the Apple of the Week; hope you like it:

Internet Access

Driving slowly down the street, they passed a young woman walking in the opposite direction, giving him ample time to watch her. She was striding along on strong legs in high-heeled boots, blonde ponytail swinging and a big, white, studded leather bag over one shoulder. What caught his attention, though, was the black, glass-like slab she was holding up in front of her face, thin white cords leading from it to her ears. The woman was obviously upset, yelling angrily at the slab, on the verge of tears. The wheeled glass cage he was sitting in muffled all sounds coming from outside it, but he could still hear her voice, if not the actual words.

He had seen several of these slabs before: everybody seemed to be carrying one, talking to it, peering at it, stroking it.
He wondered whether this was a new kind of magic or a new kind of pet.

 ‘As you know, I have been away for a long time,’ he said to the bulky man beside him. ‘What are those glassy black things that you all carry around and talk to?’
‘Smart phones, sir,’ the man – Erik, he had to remember that – answered. ‘They allow you to talk to people who are far away from you.’
‘Interesting,’ Loke said politely. Magic, then.
‘They also have games,’ the man went on, ‘and Internet access.’
He must have looked blank, for the man (Erik) got a pained expression, as if he didn’t quite know where to begin. ‘Um,’ he hesitated, ‘you can find and read information from all over the world, words and pictures, and sound.’
Now, this was interesting. ‘And can you send information, too?’ he asked innocently.
‘Sure, you can upload whatever you want – if your connection’s good enough.’
‘Sorry, sir. Send.’
‘Send to this net thing.’
‘Internet, yes, sir. It’s called the Web, as well.’
‘Web? Like a spider’s web?’
‘That’s right, sir.’
‘I see. Can you get me one of these things?’
‘Of course, sir. I expect there may be one waiting for you at the house, otherwise we will get one for you straightaway.’
‘Thank you,’ Loke said gravely.

He leaned back in the leather seat, stroking his beard while musing quietly. Now that he was back in the world, he would finally get his revenge for the centuries he had spent trapped, chained and poisoned, punished by the Asar for merely being himself.
He would become a spider in a web that encircled the world.

A few days later, a new video appeared on YouTube. It showed a strangely attractive, skinny man of indeterminate age, with shoulder-length black hair and an immaculate goatee.
The man told a freaky story about being a god and about how the people he thought were his friends, his family, had cheated him, blaming him for an entirely accidental death. He couldn’t have known that that arrow would kill young Balder, could he? After all, the guy was supposed to be immortal.
He told of how they had caught him, tied him to a rock and let a snake drip its venom like acid on his face. He told of the physical pain and the emotional pain, of his longing for revenge and his newfound freedom.

The video went viral, getting hundreds of thousands of hits in a day and soon millions. Korean rappers and Norwegian comedy duos were forgotten: now everybody watched, liked and shared the Loke story.
Of course, nobody took him seriously. Nobody, except maybe a few Hindus or modern Pagans, believed in random gods appearing on YouTube. Some thought it was a promotion for a new movie; most merely thought it was cool.

That is, somebody did take him seriously. Loke immediately recognised the grumpy, one-eyed man standing on his doorstep one evening.
‘Father Odin,’ he greeted him politely.
‘Don’t you father Odin me, you wretched half-breed,’ the ancient father of the gods growled. ‘You have been using my invention to further your own twisted agenda, spreading your incessant lies again. You really haven’t learned anything, have you?’
‘What exactly was I supposed to learn from being chained to a rock and poisoned?’
Odin glared at him. ‘Luckily, humans these days don’t give a fig – as long as they are entertained, they don’t care by whom or what. So there’s really no harm done. Nothing you can do.’

It never occurred to anyone to connect the popular YouTube video with the waves of aberrant behaviour sweeping over various parts of the world.
In Germany, Japanese style cosplay gained a hitherto unseen popularity, with night club-like cross-dressing spreading to daytime activities. Universities and businesses saw otherwise serious professionals decked out in school girl uniforms, wigs, and heavy makeup. Bank clerks wore clown masks and carried soft guns to work.
Tokyo night life already mastered the art of dressing up and instead developed a new trend of deliberately and consistently lying to your lover, demonstrating fidelity by flirting with others.
A shoplifting spree originating in Paris spread like an epidemic across most of Europe, causing near panic in shop owners, exhaustion in detectives and police, and intense worry in parents of teenagers. As a kind of internal signal or uniform, the shoplifters all carried white bags for their loot, from tiny shoulder strap purses to baskets to rucksacks.
Applications for sex change operations proliferated, along with a sudden market for not only the usual gender-specific enhancements, but additions as well – hermaphroditism became the new black.
In England, an animal research facility was burned to the ground by the ALF after it came out that an obscure line of research had reached new heights, so to speak: the successful grafting of wings onto mammals.

Meanwhile, in a large house somewhere in the Scandinavian countryside, Loke leaned back in a comfortable leather armchair, stroking his beard and smiling contentedly to himself.

© 2013 Dorthe Møller Christensen

The Knitting
I’ve started taking my knitting to work with me; the daily schedules have lessons starting at a quarter past the hour, so between each lesson are 15 minutes (give or take). This is just enough time to go to the bathroom or fetch a cup of coffee when needed, but often, I just stay in my classroom. Sometimes, a good portion of the break is taken up by questions from students, but if I am left to myself, what can I do?
So, I brought my stripy sock along to knit a few rows; this is good for my calm and centeredness. And the students like it, generally; many of them have come straight from school and living at home to a new life in a new city, and watching someone nearly old enough to be their mother knitting is familiar to most, either from home or from school.
A couple of the girls talk about knitting (and crochet) – and the next day, one of them brought her knitting, as well.

So, the socks are moving along – the multi-coloured yarn moved from a long stretch of green that made the beginning of the first sock look like a Christmas elf sock, into blues and then purple (yay!), which means that the toe of the second sock is three shades of purple.

My Leaf cardigan is at a tricky stage right now: I am working the garter edge all the way around the body. The tricky part is having 600+ stitches on an 80 cm circular needle; as I am working on 2½ mm needles, I am stuck with fixed circs instead of my favourite interchangeables that only come in 3 mm and upwards. With the interchangeables, I could switch to a longer wire; but I’ll manage. It’s only 7 rows, after all, and I’m on the 5th now.
And then come the sleeves on dpns, and I might finish this cotton cardigan before winter. Brilliant timing, right? Something tells me I miscalculated or forgot that my knitting rate would slow down when I started work. Oh, well, it may be spring again sometime.

With much better timing, I finally sank my teeth into the red cowl I have been wanting to make, inspired by The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (which I reviewed here two or three weeks ago – and on Goodreads).
The circus in the book is kept in black, white, grey, and silver, and the group of followers of the circus also dress in those colours to show that they adhere to it – but then add ‘a shock of red’ to show that they are not part of the circus, merely spectators. The items most mentioned in the book are scarves, but also hats, roses, ties, &c.
I decided to make a moebius cowl, to keep the magic feel of the circus and the sense of not quite knowing which side is which.
I am using the lusciously soft Sandnes Kashmir Alpakka that I bought at the craft fair (Husflidsmessen) three weeks ago – when I for once was drawn to the red yarn and not the purple. And when it is done, I will post the pattern for the Rêveur Cowl on Ravelry.

As ever, I have lots of plans for further knitting; right now, I have a bunch of wool stacked up in front of me: some Donegal Aran Tweed for another sleeveless o w l s, and two samples of Peruvian Highland wool for – well, I think I will use the moss green for the cabled hoodie that is nudging me, the adult version of the Samwise.
And I have patterns that need to be finished and handed over to the Free Pattern Testers group for test knitting.

The Books
All too soon, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki ended – I have written about it here several times and a short review on Goodreads, so I won’t go into it again, only to remind you to look it up.
In an afterword, Ozeki mentions that the printed version of the book contains annotations, footnotes, and illustrations, so ideally, one should probably have both the audio book and the printed book; the audio has such immediacy and charm that I wouldn’t want to miss that, either.

I’ve managed to finish several books this week, actually: when Trespass by Rose Tremain ran out, I continued with At Home by Bill Bryson and finished that one, too.
Trespass tells of siblings, of ageing, of handling your past and attempting to secure your future; it is also a mystery with an interesting, though not unforeseeable, twist.
At Home walks you through a house, the old rectory in England where the Bryson family lives, regarding the provenance and fittings of the various rooms in a home; the walk turns into a world-wide journey to find spices for the kitchen, wood for furniture, and not least the challenges for the new inhabitants of North America to build and acquire all the things they saw as essential for a comfortable life.

And I made it through Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. I’m probably being unfair to this book, expecting it to be a novel (as I did at first) and then being disappointed when it didn’t meet my expectations.
So: this is a portrait of Savannah, Georgia, in the 1980s, and the protracted murder case against Jim Williams, a Gatsbyesque figure, for the shooting of his assistant and lover Danny Hansford. The book resembles a series of feature articles in the New Yorker where, indeed, the author had his day job at the time.

Recently, I listened to an interview with the Canadian writer Margaret Atwood on the Guardian Books podcast (from 28th August 2013), about her book The Blind Assassin – so I went to look for it and found it in the local library (they have shelves with literature in foreign languages, mostly English, but also German, French, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Vietnamese, &c).
I haven’t got all that far into it yet, but I’m liking it.
And do go find that interview: Ms Atwood is a charming lady. One person in the audience remarked admiringly that she is very well read, and she replied: ‘I’m old. It accumulates.’

My current on-the-go audio book is Silver by Andrew Motion, a sequel to the classic Treasure Island by R. L. Stevenson.
The sub-title of Motion’s book is Return to Treasure Island, so the silver in the title refers to both Long John Silver, the nefarious ship’s cook, and to the silver left on the island when Jim Hawkins was a boy. Now, his son, also named Jim, is approached by the lovely daughter of John Silver to go back to the Island and claim the remaining treasure.
Silver is read by David Tennant whom we all know and love as the Tenth Doctor. I have heard David Tennant read Doctor Who books before, very appropriately, and he does this one very well, too, with the occasional doctorial emphasis on a word.

That is all for this time – I need to tidy up a bit before I go knitting (parents coming over, remember?). I will be back next week with more knitting, more books, more chatter.
Until then: have a great week, take care of yourself and your loved ones, and happy knitting!

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