Monday, March 30, 2015

An acute case of start-itis

From the Urban Dictionary (a very credible source):
Startitis: noun - Repeatedly starting new projects while still having multiple uncompleted projects.
Melanie is plagued by startitis. She frequently starts knitting something new rather than finish her other incomplete projects.

Before you laugh, startitis is a real thing that fiber enthusiasts struggle with everyday - it can't be cured, only managed.  It's got its own wiki and everything.

There is even controversy as to the correct form of the word:
I keep hearing the word “startitis” used by knitters when referring to a person who cannot seem to stop casting on new projects. Technically, according to accurate medical terminology, such a word should be “startosis”: condition of starting. “Startitis” actually means inflammation of starting.
Either way, I can tell you, I've got a fever and the only thing I need is a-new-project-on-every-set-of-needles-I-own.  Seriously.  They'll catch cold, too, if they don't have wool to keep them warm.  It's a fact, people.

I don't know if it was 2 months of crazy overtime at work or the time change or spring or knowing that I was going to be watching a lot of basketball while sitting still and my hands would need to do something, but I HAD to cast on all the things this month.  Like an itch I had to scratch, I just kept grabbing yarn, needles & bags and starting things.  It was irrational, but there are worse things I could have done.

The cast-ons:

Ninja Chop!  yarn by KnitMona
Worsted weight socks are my new favorite things 
Wait - self-striping is still a favorite thing, too.
And while we're at it, this again...
Sweaters are good too.
Featherweight Cardi, finally and approx. 12 years after everyone else who knits   
More socks.  You can never have too many socks.
And last, but not least, a cowl...
... that does this when light hits it!

I am happy to report that my startitis has calmed down, for now anyway.  I like to use startitis because you never know when it's going to flare up again.  I have finished 6 socks (but only 2 pairs... another story for another day...) and the cowl.  I've made significant progress on the Nuvem and I'm finished with the first skein on the Sprig sweater.

My needles are nice and warm, thankyouverymuch.  Also, I'm totally gonna win Stash Dash this year - the gaunlet has been thrown!  I think I can finish 5K worth of projects over the summer, especially if April means casting on all the things just like May.  I do have some empty sock needles...

Monday, March 2, 2015

"Bee in your bonnet, Potter?" The Joy of the Re-Read

I loved the Harry Potter books.  I loved the Harry Potter movies.  When it snows, I feel a compulsion to bury myself in blankets and watch all the movies again.  With hot chocolate.

We've had plenty of opportunities to do that this winter, as it's been dangerously cold to go outside and every time we're above 10 degrees F, it snows a foot or so.

Some time this fall, a former student of mine revealed on Facebook that she had never read the Harry Potter series and was going to do so this winter, for the first time, as an adult reader.  After the New Year, I got to thinking:  it's been a long time since I've read the series (I was in college), I've always wanted to re-read them, and I did just purchase them all for my nook when Pottermore was having a sale.  The stars had aligned and even Professor Trelawney would see that they want me to read the series again.

I'm currently on book #4 and I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying them.  Knowing how the story ultimately ends, I'm now catching so many little things I didn't realize had significance before.  J.K. Rowling's truly masterful writing and story telling is just blowing me away.

Naturally, I've only got a few thousand pages of story left, so I'm scouting my next series to dive into.

I have to admit here - I've learned to knit socks while I read, thus combining two of my favorite things.  It's fantastic! And I'm not sacrificing knitting time to read or reading time to knit.

Just a friendly PSA

On deck:

  • to re-read the Hunger Games books before the final movie installment comes out this Christmas.
  • catch up on my favorite Patricia Briggs series, Mercy Thompson & the Alpha & Omega series
  • the next volume in the Eternal Guardians series (not a children's series, btw)

Since not all books are created equal and sometimes I imagine the author reading them to me anyway, I'm going to be doing some audiobooks this year, too.

In the Audible queue:

  • the Outlander series (also not a children's series)
  • As You Wish, read by Cary Elwes
  • Yes Please, Amy Poehler
  • One More Thing: Stories and other stories, BJ Novak
If anyone has any favorites to share - books, ebooks, series, audiobooks, audiobook readers - Please comment below!  So what if I've got a few dozen books on my 'to read' shelf in my nook library - I'm always looking for a good recommendation!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Golden Globes, Grammys & Oscars - Oh my!

It's award show season and since our current weather pattern involves nasty storms every Sunday afternoon/evening, we've caught them all.

Last year, after the Grammys, I heard a music critic on NPR say that all award shows reward the kind of work that the voters think you should be creating.  The GRAMMYs award trophies to the artists who are moving their genres in the voter-approved direction or representing the genre the way the Academy sees it.  The Academy awards do much the same thing.  The Golden Globes are a little unique in that they seem to reward whatever they like, deserving or not, but after a few drinks, people's reactions are SO much better.  It's always interesting to see who gets recognized and who gets told, 'You'll have to try again next year.'

The Golden Globes were somewhat unmemorable.  I loved Tina Fey & Amy Poehler, but was sad when their bits were cut in the interest of time.  Pacing is imporant for shows like that, and their appearances make that long telecast more enjoyable.

Admittedly, we hadn't seen any of the nominated movies, but The Imitation Game & Gone Girl were on our to-watch list.  The summaries generally tell us what movies would be our cup of tea and unfortunately, there weren't many that lit a fire for us to see them.  Shrug.

The movie-related awards seemed to be all over - there didn't seem to be any huge winners that night.  It seemed that this year, the Globes went to pictures that fit their mold of what serious should be, or what funny should be.  They honored casts, but not many individuals from those cast efforts (i.e. Grand Budapest Hotel) and some individual awards from pics that weren't honored overall (Julianne Moore from Still Alice).  As someone who didn't get all the screeners, it's hard to say which performances are worth checking out.

The television awards were even more disoreienting - The Globes made a statement that they not only recognize the validity of internet-based television, but they rewarded it.  Surprisingly progressive, actually.

The Grammys were a little different.  They sent a lot of messages that night, among them:

  • It's perfectly okay to be Sam Smith
  • Everyone else should just accept that they aren't Sam Smith enough to win a Grammy, if nominated in the same category
  • Let's nominate a bunch of people who were cool 20 years ago (especially in the case of the U2 album that people flipped their lids over when it appeared, unrequited, on their iPhones)
  • If you put out an album that wasn't nominated because we nominated lots of throwback artists, you should try harder (to be you, or Sam Smith, whichever comes easier)
  • There were some new talents that we wanted to recognize, but not enough to award; so we'll just give it to these people we already know... Ooooo or Sam Smith!
  • Taylor Swift can make pop music, and we'll recognize it, but we won't actually reward her - yet.  Not while there is a Beck album. Oh, have you heard the new Sam Smith album?
  • And that Happy song - let's keep giving it awards like everyone isn't so sick of it they could scream!
  • Everything is better with a gospel choir.  It's a rule.  Let's use one at least 3 times in this show.
  • Let's have Kanye sing.  Auto-tune = sing, apparently.
My thoughts on the GRAMMYS:
As in years past, LL Cool J was among my favorite things on this awards show.  He is the epitome of cool.  And hot.  All at the same time.

I could have done with a lot less see-through dress action.  That got a little creepy. Exception: Beyonce's dress was fabulous - a see-through, but all class and glamour.  

Miranda Lambert showed why she's the baddest bitch in country music right now (and did so without a see-through outfit - Bonus points!)
Madonna, at whatever age she is, still looks better than I ever have and can still dance better than I ever could.  Love her or hate her, Madonna works at her art and it shows.
I loved the Ed Sheeran & ELO AND the Hozier & Annie Lennox collaborations.  Those are the best of the orchestrated "Grammy Moments" in recent memory.  Both played to the strength of both artists, which were complementary to each other - and that's why they worked.
The odd couple win of the year goes to Lady Gaga & Tony Bennett.  If you're into that genre of music, they are knocking it out of the park!  And it's nice for people to finally realize that Lady Gaga's got more than a meat dress - she's also got a lion's share of talent.
And finally, for all my teasing above, I don't dislike Sam Smith.  I have heard wonderful things about the album and plan to check it out in its entirety.  But even then, I don't know that I'll like it as much as the GRAMMY voters did.  It's just not possible.

Two thoughts -

1. Why the domestic violence PSA in the middle of the GRAMMYs?  How much music is celebrated at that ceremony that promotes & glamourizes a lifestyle of violence?

If you want to stop promoting violence, you have to stop profiting on how cool it is.

You have to stand up and say, "I'm not gonna hit my woman to prove I'm a man";  "I'm not gonna punish someone just because I think they deserve it"; "I'm not going to settle the score by one-upping someone who hurt me and mine."

2. Why do we keep inviting Kanye West to things?  He's a self-righteous jerk.
Also, he made me suffer through that 'singing' that was so bad, even auto-tune couldn't make it sound good.  Then he pretended to once again storm the stage, like he did to T. Swift when she was a teenager, acting like he was just joking.  When he played it off like a joke, I'll admit, I thought for a second, he was demonstrating some personal growth and was making a little fun of himself, having a laugh with his pal Beck, and it was a little endearing.  Almost.

Then came the rant at the after-party.

There have been a million op-eds on this subject, some that are really on point like this one, so I won't reiterate that point.  Anyone who knows anything about Beck knows what kind of artist he is, so to attack his 'artistry' was a strategic error, to say the least.

My question is this - why do we have to turn a blind eye to Kanye's crazy god-complex-driven jerkiness?  Why are other artists (and awards panels, for that matter) afraid to call him out for his blatant disrespect of those artists he doesn't think are as great as Beyonce (or himself, for that matter)?

And then came this epic smackdown by Shirley Manson.  I'm glad that she shared what so many of us were thinking on the subject and hope that others will feel empowered to call a duck a duck.  We don't have to continue to reward Kanye's bad behavior... or at least take his seats off of the aisle, so a security guard has the chance to tackle him before he makes it to the stage without an invitation next time.

Meanwhile, Beck is over here, being all gracious (which makes me respect him more) and Kanye is doing this (at SNL40):

While we're speaking of artistry, consider this:

 and this:

Please don't get me wrong - I mean no disrespect to Beyonce.  Beyonce is a talented performer.  But to imply that Beck is not shows the true depth of Jeezus' ignorance & dilusion.

Let's stop entertaining that, shall we?

On to the Oscars.

Neil Patrick Harris is just one of the most likeable people ever.  He's too cute.  And we all have proof of that now that we've seen him in his tighty-whiteys.

I thought NPH did a great job of hosting, but some of the writing was just plain bad.  Some of the jokes fell flat or were distasteful, IMO.  The opening number was adorable, and it involved Anna Kendrick, who is one of my favorite people.

Bonus - she throws a shoe.  It was hysterical.

J.K. Simmons had a wonderful & heartfelt speech that made me all fuzzy inside.  He seems like a genuinely nice person and it's always nice to see those people win.

The rest of the night went like this:

  • Grand Budapest Hotel wins LOTS of things!
  • I'm confused what's going on.
  • This show is taking forever.
  • Oh, the gospel choir is back (see above rule about gospel choirs).
  • John Legend & Common win again (see above rule about gospel choirs).
  • The orchestra playing off people we've never heard of with random 70s & 80s tunes.
The most reacted to speech of the night was easily Patricia Arquette.

My 2nd favorite part of this moment was Meryl Streep's & JLo's reaction to Patty.

I couldn't stick it out to the end - The memoriam was awkward and long and then Jennifer Hudson sang a song about how she can't let someone go.  As if we had a choice - these people are dead now.  It struck a chord with me: a chord of awkward with overtones of slightly inappropriate.

Sadly, I missed Lady Gaga's awesome tribute to Julie Andrews & the Sound of Music.  But thanks to the interwebs, I saw it Monday.  Gaga's got chops.  Glad to see people are finally starting to notice!

While I have no desire to see some of the films and I was sad that Into The Woods didn't get any more recognition than it did, we did add a few films to our 'to rent' list.  Including The Imitation Game.

Because Benedict Cumberbatch. *swoon*

Really, I can't sum it up better than that.  I'll just take Benedict's advice now.