25 February 2015


Knitting Diary: My First Bag

Speaking of ambivalent ultramontanist knitting, let me tell you about the bag I started during Pope Francis's visit to the Philippines--a totally spontaneous project.

My inspiration was a funny rule announced just a few days before he was scheduled to arrive, which said that only see-through bags would be allowed at the concluding Mass. I don't know who came up with it, but he (or she?!) obviously hasn't been paying attention to the fashions since 1993, which was the last year those clear vinyl handbags and rucksacks were all the rage. Last month, even if people had been totally willing to follow the rule, they simply wouldn't have been able to. At least not without making their own bags from those clear plastic protective sheets that Filipinos like wrapping school books in! So the rule was scrapped as quickly as it was suggested. But for me, the idea of crafting a "see-through bag" was too good an excuse to pass up.

And when a friend rang when I was in the middle of the bottom garter stitch rounds of the DROPS 129-7 bag to say that she was willing to pick me up in half an hour for one last chance to see the Holy Father, that's when I decided to double down on the papal theme. Half-yellow, half-white: like the Vatican flag! =D

So now you're wondering how it all worked out, aye? Well . . .

23 February 2015


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 114

Every book club "meeting" makes me wish that we could all be in one room together, but none more so than this one. For although I truly like what I've read so far in St. Francis de Sales's Introduction to the Devout Life--and think that it likes me back (!)--it feels like "reticent retreat" reading rather than "chatty book club" material. Which shouldn't really be the case, since one of St. Francis's first important points is that true devotion can be practised even in the middle of a busy, bustling world.

In the creation God commanded the plants of the earth to bring forth fruit, each after its kind; and in a similar way He commands Christians, who are the living plants of His Church, to bring forth the fruits of devotion, each according to his calling and vocation. There is a different practice of devotion for the gentleman and the mechanic; for the prince and the servant; for the wife, the maiden, and the widow; and still further, the practice of devotion must be adapted to the capabilities, the engagements, and the duties of each individual. It would not do were the Bishop to adopt a Carthusian solitude, or if the father of a family refused like the Capuchins to save money; if the artisan spent his whole time in church like the professed religious; or the latter were to expose himself to all manner of society in his neighbour's behalf, as the Bishop must do. Such devotion would be inconsistent and ridiculous. Yet this kind of mistake is not unfrequently made, and the world being either not able, or not willing, to distinguish between true devotion and the indiscretion of false devotees, condemns that devotion which nevertheless has no share in these inconsistencies.

His very first important point, of course, is precisely that we must distinguish between true devotion and false devotion. (As the online German edition asks: "Was ist wahre Froemmigkeit?") Indeed, it is precisely because of false devotion that true devotion found itself with an undeserved bad reputation. That was the case in St. Francis's day . . . and we can still see a lot of that in our own.

21 February 2015


Locus Focus: Take One Hundred and Thirteen!

I may not have finished my personal challenge to write about four faerie tale retellings in October and November of 2014, but since I read one more book and buy a DVD for it, I feel obligated to finish. After all, it counts as a backlog, which makes it an official part of the CLUTTER that I have TO CLEAR in 2015. So here is a post for that third book at last.

And now to update the Locus Focus page and the list of settings on the Books page . . .

20 February 2015


Young Detectives: E is for Ericson

Since my word for 2014 is CLEAR, defined as the opposite of CLUTTER, I should also get started on all those drafts that I've been meaning to publish for years. Some of them are timelier--that is to say, so much later--than the others, so they get to go first. We've done A for Allison, B for Bellairs, C for Clements, D for Dowd, and even a highly optimistic R for Restoration, but only today do we finally learn which author got to be E and who her Young Detective is . . .

18 February 2015


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 113

"The hunt is the relaxation of the Christian," said St. Francis de Sales, quoted in the Charles A. Columbe article linked in yesterday's post on Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. That turned out to be a real alignment of my reading "stars," because, as you can see, this year's "Two or Three" Book Club pick for Lent is by the good Bishop of Geneva. And yes, I decided that long before I knew I'd be reading Rawls's novel.

I hope St. Francis will have some stuff to say about CLEARING. =)

If you don't have a physical copy, you can read digital translations at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, the Internet Archive, and Philothea. (And if you like German as much as I do, you'll be pleased to know that Philothea has eine Deutsche Uebersetzung as well. The part of my mind that stores up my German vocabulary words is trembling with joy.)

Finally, remember that today, Ash Wednesday, is a day of fasting. (You're welcome!) Have a blessed day!

Image Source: Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales

17 February 2015


Reading Diary: Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

. . . I made trails with the [coon] hide for them to follow . . .

It was a beautiful sight to see my pups work those trails. At first they were awkward and didn't know what to do, but they would never quit trying.

Old Dan would get so eager and excited, he would overrun a trail. Where it twisted and turned, he would run straight on, bawling up a storm. It didn't take him long to realise that a smart old coon didn't always run in a straight line.

Little Ann never overran a trail. She would wiggle and twist and cry and whine, and pretty soon she would figure it out.

When I put off reading books, it's usually because I worry that I'm reading them at "the wrong time"--which means any time before I can properly appreciate them. That was what happened with Where the Red Fern Grows, though I was just going by a feeling in its case and couldn't have explained what I thought I lacked. I mean, I had already read other boy-and-dog books, notably Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Shiloh and Fred Gipson's Old Yeller, and they didn't go over my head. (Then again, how would I know if they had? LOL!) But while I was wrong to be fussy, I was also right to have waited: for this week's reading of Where the Red Fern Grows is so much richer for having come after Xenophon's hunting treatise Cynegeticus (from four months ago) and Charles A. Coulumbe's A Hunting We Will Go articles (from last month). Not that I can really pat myself on the back: I hadn't realised I was working on a syllabus! =P

And now this feels like an Ethical Animals post, aye?

14 February 2015


Life As a Reading Challenge, Chapter 16

Find out why we're all too late to sign up =P

My friend Bob says that the most ridiculous question he is asked when someone sees his personal library is, "Did you really read all those books?" And he likes to point out that no one ever looks at someone else's huge collection of records or DVDs and asks something similar. But it has been a while since I have been able to roll my eyes at gobsmacked non-readers, because a significant number of the books I own are in what book bloggers like to call the "To-Be-Read pile." (This may be an example of life imitating Goodreads.) So, no, I haven't read all of those.

Well, all that's going to end this year and I'm going to earn my bookworm badge back, because I've finally thought of my word for 2015 . . . CLEAR.

11 February 2015


Talking to You about Psychedelic Furs
(Part of my series on Rob Sheffield's Talking to Girls about Duran Duran)

Having neglected to ask you at the end of our discussion on Madonna whether you'd prefer to discuss 80s teen movies or cassingles, I have had to make that choice all by myself. And in a paroxysm of predictability, I picked 80s teen movies. Because I could.

John Hughes's movies were special because they had the sassiest girls, the cattiest boys, the most relatable boy-girl friendships and bumbling parents and big sisters on muscle relaxants. For those of us who were sullen teenagers, it shocked us how he got the details right, especially the music. "I'd rather be making music than movies," he said in 1985," describing himself as a frustrated guitarist. "Pretty in Pink was written to the Psychedelic Furs, Lou Reed and Mott the Hoople. The Breakfast Club was written in my Clash-Elvis Costello period."

That's how we got the
Pretty in Pink soundtrack, one of the defining 80s new-wave albums. You could complain that when the Psychedelic Furs did their remake of "Pretty in Pink" for the movie, it was about one-third as good as the original. I would counter that until this movie, girls never listened to the original; once "Pretty in Pink" became a song girls actually liked, it became a totally different song.

There's an idea . . . Do you agree that a song or a movie can become totally different when the audience reacts to it in a different way? Did the post-punk Pretty in Pink change when John Hughes heard in it the inspiration for a coming-of-age Cinderella story? The Psychedelic Furs didn't seem to mind very much. Perhaps they figured that you can never control who likes your stuff or why they like your stuff. And maybe they knew it's because you don't control your stuff to begin with.

Hughes would have seen that from their end, too, after fans wove an entire mythology for Pretty in Pink out of both facts and dreams.

08 February 2015


Dear Abbies

So we've rung in the new liturgical year, the new Gregorian year, and the new Julian year, and we're closing in on the lunar new year and not only do I still not have a word for 2015, but I'm still thinking about issues related to 2014's word!

I came up with the perfect caption to tie this image to my post
. . . but had to reconsider it =P

Take this story from work, which made me wonder what you would do in the same situation. (Yes, you, dear reader!) Happily, I wasn't directly involved--so we'll be brainstorming answers in the combox together!

04 February 2015


Early Edition: Weather Report

If you read the news story, you'll see that it actually has nothing to do with the headline--LOL!

We can't really blame Gary for wanting to stay indoors all throughout this episode. The temperature has plummeted to nearly 30 below zero and the day's emergencies don't really seem that urgent. It's not just the cold making him rationalise: a pedestrian who breaks his leg and a woman who recovers after inhaling smoke in an apartment fire truly aren't that serious. There are also things that blow up, pets that get hurt, and DIY handymen who get some nasty--but not fatal--shocks . . . but none of it is a big enough deal to make Gary feel bad about literally phoning it in. So why does he still get the sense that The Paper wants him to be out and about?

Hmmmm. Perhaps all the people who accuse him of having a "hero complex" after he forces help on them that they neither want nor need are right.