WIP Wednesday

My current art quilt project is coming along!

WIP

I have finished piecing the sections of the sky portion of the background, and now I’m working on the sea portion. I designed this quilt to be pretty large and this is the part of the process where I think, why did I do that? It’s working out fine, though, and actually the sea is coming together pretty quickly. Once the sea is done, I’ll piece the sky sections together and then connect the sea and the sky and create the land that will be on the right side of the background.

The sky is made of square pieces, so I chose to make the sea rectangles for some variety. I also chose to piece the sea on the diagonal, which I hope will add some feeling of the movement of water to that section.

Feeling that I don’t have as much time to work on this as I’d like has me convinced that after this project, I will focus on some smaller pieces. Not that they’ll necessarily end up taking any less time, but perhaps they will feel quicker?

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Ben Folds with the Grand Rapids Symphony

Last weekend was my birthday (I am now 40, woo) and as a treat my folks took us to see Ben Folds play with the Grand Rapids Symphony. It was a great show!

Ben Folds with the Grand Rapids Symphony

Ben Folds brought a selection of his Ben Folds Five songs that have been orchestrated, in addition to a movement from the piano concerto he recently composed. I haven’t listened to all of the recent BFF albums but I knew almost all the songs they played, which was nice.

They only played one movement of the piano concerto – this seemed to have been Folds’ choice, I’m guessing maybe because they only had a few hours to rehearse together? Or maybe he is concerned that his pop audience won’t make it through an entire three movements? (I think they would have – the audience was super receptive and appreciative throughout the show.) The movement they played, the third, was fun, bright, and energetic. There were a few nods to Elfman (I thought, anyway) and a general feeling of homage to the Beatles’ A Day in the Life (though slightly less cacophonous). He gave a brief introduction to what a piano concerto is, for the benefit of audience members who may not have had much in the way of classical music knowledge, and kept a great sense of humor going despite some stern/fun-refusing faces among members of the orchestra (maybe they just felt that it would have been unprofessional otherwise, but a number of the musicians seemed pretty stone-faced).

One of the highlights of the show happened when someone in the audience loudly shouted out, “Rock this bitch!” Folds started out by explaining the background and then asked the contrabassoon player to replicate a lick Folds played on the piano. The contrabassoonist gamely figured it out in just a couple of tries and then Folds added in other instruments with different, complementary licks, adding up to a pretty neat little eight-bar (I think) bit. He added in the chorus so that there were some lyrics (“Rockin’ this bitch in G-Rap with an orchestra”) and then after the symphony got it down, Folds improvised some on the piano and encouraged a few of the orchestra members to jump in with improv as well. It was really fun to watch and hear and I feel like it loosened up some of the players as I could see smiles during and after that piece.

Folds returned to the stage for an encore with the orchestra and then returned again for a few songs on his own. It was a really fun show and I’m so glad we got to go!

American Dog Walker: The Art of Bruce Thayer

There is currently a terrific exhibit at the CMU Art Gallery, featuring the works of CMU alum Bruce Thayer, an artist who is heavily influenced by the Chicago Imagist movement.

American Dog Walker: the Art of Bruce Thayer exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

I have to admit I knew nothing about the Chicago Imagists before going in to this exhibit, and I hadn’t heard Bruce Thayer‘s name before. I’m so glad I went, though, as I learned a ton and really enjoyed the art on display.

American Dog Walker: the Art of Bruce Thayer exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Alice in the Wonderful Dog Walk, 2013

Much of Thayer’s art is political, but some is more telling of his daily life and routines, like this watercolor. (Also: I am a sucker for dogs.)

American Dog Walker: the Art of Bruce Thayer exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Blame Game, 2013

Thayer was an auto worker for many years and experienced firsthand the struggles of the economic downturn and the effects of the changes in American manufacturing over the last few decades.

American Dog Walker: the Art of Bruce Thayer exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Working Stiff, 2005

Thayer’s combination of drawing, painting, stamping, and other techniques is very effective, I think, in conveying the anxiety, uncertainty, frustration, and anger that auto workers and others felt during these troubles. Thayer’s ability to combine different techniques and themes reminded me of some of They Might Be Giants’ early music (the Pink album and Lincoln). Both use imagery from popular culture, political themes, and seem to have a sense of humor. I’m not sure I’m really putting a finger on why the one reminded me of the other, but it did.

American Dog Walker: the Art of Bruce Thayer exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Shift Change, 1989

This piece is one of a few cut out assembly-acrylic sculptures in this show. I like the way that this piece brings the auto workers to life as they appear to be dancing. It seems that the balancing act of being an auto worker could easily have felt like a dance at times (juggling productivity with diminishing resources and increasing demands and trying to maintain one’s self-respect).

This exhibit will be on display at the CMU Art Gallery through November 8, 2014. I highly recommend checking it out.

FO Friday: Fawn Beanie and Wine-Tasting Shawl Scarf

Two more finished knitted objects this week!

Fawn Beanie

First, I finished this Fawn Beanie, so named because the yarn colorway is called Fawn. It’s 100% wool and has a very nice drape. The way this pattern is written provides a nice square X shape on the back, which looks pretty cool. I might end up embellishing it with something colorful on or just above the brim, but I haven’t decided yet. This one is going in the holiday gift pile, so I need to decide pretty soon.

Wine Tasting Shawl Scarf #knitting

Next up is this Wine-Tasting Shawl Scarf, again named for the yarn colorway. This will be a nice shawl for work-wear: it’s colorful and warm but not huge or too bulky. I haven’t 100% decided yet, but I think this is one I’ll keep for myself.

superhero fatigue

02292008 Photogamer

I admit it: I’m experiencing superhero fatigue. There are Just So Many of them around these days! I’m all for the geek uprising and the popular-ification of media that was formerly relegated to “stuff for nerds,” but I just can’t dig up an interest in all of it.

Or even in everything superhero. I have enjoyed most of the Avengers movies, but the more of them that come out, the less interested I am. Winter Soldier was just meh for me – and I think that this is probably because I’ve seen so many similar movies lately. If it had come out without being sandwiched between a bunch of other similar flicks, I might have enjoyed it more.

I was watching Agents of SHIELD, but it hasn’t held my interest. I watched the pilot for The Flash, but again, felt meh about it. I tried Misfits and Arrow, but nothing really grabbed me. I’m sure there are more I’m not thinking of at the moment.

With a new Batman movie in production, I am trying but failing to get excited about it. The last reboot was fine at first but got SO heavy and dark and dude-centric that I was struggling to enjoy them after the first one.

I don’t think it’s just superheroes that I’m burned out on. I think it’s partially that, but also that everything is trying to replicate the other successful franchises/brands, and it all ends up feeling the same. I’m sick of movies where the action sequences are blurry, frenetic messes that your eyes can hardly track and which depict the so-called heroes blithely destroying the cities they’re supposedly defending. I’m tired of media where the majority of characters are beefy males and I’m supposed to think the lone female character is badass because she acts just like her ridiculous male counterparts while wearing high heels and skin-tight garb. (Don’t forget her carefully coiffed hair, which she will NEVER put back in a hair-tie or anything else practical to keep it out of her way.) Just writing about this feels exhausting.

Does anyone else feel this fatigue? Seen anything great that revitalized your interest?

FO Friday and a free pattern

I recently completed another hat and a lap blanket for a friend’s father who recently went into hospice.

Thunderhead Watchcap #knitting

This is a pretty standard watchcap pattern, but with a twist: you knit into the back of the knit stitches, which gives the whole thing a little bit of an angle.

Thunderhead Watchcap #knitting

I love the decreases on this pattern! They turn out so crisp and tidy and symmetrical! So pleasing. The friend for whom I made this hat has been going through kind of a rough time lately, and I tried to think positive thoughts while I was knitting it.

Sequoia Lap Blanket

This lap blanket was pretty simple to come up with and make. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out and I hope that it will be useful. The colorway of the yarn I chose (and for which I named the pattern) is Sequoia, and I thought, what better metaphor for the strength one needs when going through or helping someone go through a hospice situation.

Sequoia Lap Blanket

I wrote the pattern for this and published it as a free download on Ravelry. Please feel free to download it and share it with your friends! I think this might make a nice project for making give-away items as well as for those you might know who could use one.

writing and expectations

So the fall TV series are back on, which means that many shows have returned to Hulu+ (where we watch most of our current TV, as we don’t have cable). I’d been feeling some fatigue with some shows already, but a few that we’ve watched as the new season started have been Just Awful. Warning: spoilers, probably.

Castle, for instance, is a show I have quite enjoyed in the past and really want to like because it has a female main character and has Nathan Fillion, who is generally good and in good things. The first episode of this season picks up where the last one left off (spoilers, I guess): Castle is in peril on the way to marry Beckett. I have a problem with this already, because it feels like SUCH a cop-out when shows resort to putting their main characters in mortal danger. It’s not enough that they’re in the regular, every-day-for-a-crime-solver danger. They have to be attacked and kidnapped and who-knows-what-ed by The Bad Guys. So we’re starting off poorly already. Then we add in some seriously poorly written actions for our main characters. It appears to the completely oblivious eye that Castle has been hiding out to avoid getting married to Beckett, and in about no time at all, Beckett and the sidekicks from the police department have all shed any benefit of the doubt they ever possessed and are convinced that Castle has made terrible choices and is wronging everyone he ever loved. They treat him like he’s a horrible person and are pretty obvious about how much they’re hating him, despite the fact that he just got rescued, has obviously been traumatized, and has little memory of what happened to him. We’ve had how many years of them building up their relationships and they’re willing to give up on him in a matter of days? This is so inconsistent and not in character for basically ANY of them. The fact that Castle just takes all this abuse is pretty annoying, too. I won’t even get started on the long-running problem of Beckett running around with perfectly blown-out hair, getting into scrapes and tumbles without a hair out of place or even a fleeting thought of a hair-tie. COME ON.

Anyway! I’m going to give Castle another shot, but it should consider itself On Notice. A number of other shows have recently fallen off my will-watch list. I generally have a certain amount of loyalty for a show in which I’ve invested a season. But I was a bitter-ender for How I Met Your Mother and look where that got me! (NOWHERE. We actually watched the first half of the two-episode series finale, not realizing that there was a second one, and thought, well, that’s it! When we did realize there was a second part and watched it, I didn’t feel that it really added anything to what I had previously thought was the wrap-up.) Watching the returning episodes of a few comedies, I’ve realized that entire episodes will pass with not one laugh or even a chuckle, and I’m calling it quits. Modern Family, there are so few jokes in your episodes, and the ones that are there aren’t actually funny! Big Bang Theory, fat jokes still aren’t funny, and all of your characters being plain mean to each other isn’t funny, either. ESPECIALLY when you resort to all the mean girls crap that a show with three main female characters so utterly does not need. So I’m officially freeing myself of the compulsion to keep watching these. My thinking here was informed by the second episode of Bellwether Friends, which – if you haven’t checked out this podcast yet, do it now! It’s far more worth your time than any of these TV shows.

FO Friday: Hat-tastic

I’ve been knitting lots of hats lately, as I use some yarns I’ve had stashed for awhile and begin to prepare for holiday gift-giving time. I’m sort of working my way toward writing some original grown-up human hat patterns – making a lot of patterns by others is good inspiration and provides me the opportunity to think about how I want to write my own. Check out my Rav for more info on any of these!

Arrow Swish Hat

Nottingham Hat

Feathered Cloche

Hairy Llama Beanie in Knit Picks Swish Pacific Tonal

Molly Hat