Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wherein This Writer Adopts Gonzo Knitting as her Raison d'Etre

Best Quote I Heard All Day
“[Ken] Kesey practices what has come to be known as gonzo journalism. The reporter, often intoxicated, fails to get the story but delivers instead a stylishly bizarre account that mocks conventional journalism.”--R.K. Sheppard

Gonzo knitting. A stylishly bizarre garment that mocks conventional knitting? That appeals. My literary hero, Hunter S., would approve, no doubt. Now, the key word here is "stylishly," which lifts "bizarre" onto a higher plateau, dontcha think?

Gonzo knitting. Anything gonzo, anything that "mocks" the establishment, attracts me to it like flies on shit. Well, if I'm not a stylishly bizarre writer, then I think I'll hang up the electronic pen and find a used Etch-a-Sketch to fulfill my scribbling needs.

Step One in the podcast project has been fulfilled. My Super Jeenyus, Neal, the world's Greatest Audio Engineer EVER (a sop to his ego) is delighted to help me learn to use Audacity and to be my personal engineer. Besides, he owes me big time, since I help him a lot with basic software stuff. As he says, "I'm the nerd, you're the geek."

So, when he's finished a freelance gig that he's doing on the weekends, he'll be ready to help. As long as I shut the fuck up and behave. Which is damned difficult, since we both revel in the "Neal and Marilyn Show," a constant stream of insulting banter back and forth, but delivered with great love and affection. He busts my chops, I give it right back. Hmmm, maybe he should be my podcast sidekick. He was once a deejay, so he'd probably love that.

Open Mic Thursday
OK, so it's almost 10 p.m. Thursday night but what the fuck. I was busy training today and kinda got involved in that for 4 hours. Thank God I now do it over Webex, otherwise I would have had to go to Eighty Four, PA. Yes, that's right. Eighty Four. Google it. It's about 25 miles south of Pittsburgh.

This past weekend, I finally bought the book Victorian Lace. I don't know why I waited so long but considering my rather large collection of knitting, spinning, and weaving books, along with the stacks of magazines, I've not really bought much recently, other than Carol's book. Small apartment, living room with three bookcases, all filled. But I was looking over my library the other day, picking up books that I'd bought but not really used. Yet.

And then there were my exceeding well-worn copies of the Barbara Walker Treasuries. These are the books, after almost 30 years of building my library, that I refer to the most often. And one that I almost never use, Principles of Knitting. By far, that is my least favorite book. S
o here's my question to you:

Which book in your library do you use the most? And the least?

And be honest. If you don't use any of EZ's books, that is not considered heresy on this blog.

Las Vegas Brights Scarf
It's growing exponentially. Almost done, I would say. I am quite pleased with it. And love working with silk that I spun.

My PhotoShop Essentials crapped out on me tonight (corrupt file, probably), so I couldn't adjust the picture's lighting and colors. But it's pretty much true, except that the color variations and subtleties are harder to see.

I've decided to give this to my friend/boss, Susan. She has finally finished her Master's after eight months of working full time, traveling, and trying to get her school work done. Susan saw it the other week when she was in the office--she lives in Tampa and only comes up to Jersey City every few months. When I told her it was hers, she was blown away because she understands how much work has gone into it. A gift of love? Absolutely.

I keep wondering when my fixation with lace will die down. I have done virtually nothing but for two years now. And yet, my fascination keeps growing, to the point where I have been designing my own lace pattern for the Chantilly Lace socks that will be in my book Rock Soxs.

Such a simple concept. A bunch of yarn loops and corresponding decreases on either a garter or stockinette field. Yet, it confounds so many and causes great gnashing of teeth, the uttering of expletives unknown to Richard Nixon, and a pathological fear of dropping stitches.

I know. I'm one of those rare and handy lunatics who is guilty of all of the above. It will never end, either.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mountie Pride...And Other Tales From My Teenage Crypt

Best Quote I Heard All Day
High school is closer to the core of the American experience than anything else I can think of.--Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Yep, that's my high school yearbook picture. And the name tag I wore last night at the Montclair High School Class of 1968's 40th reunion. Yes, MHS warrants its own Wikipedia page. If you remember the movie, "Cheaper by the Dozen," the original, not the remake, the Gilbreth family lived in Montclair. Some of our alumni of note:
  • Buzz Aldrin
  • Joe Walsh (of the Eagles, if you're too young to remember)
  • Allen B. DuMont
  • Robert Trent Jones
  • Christina Ricci
  • Warren Littlefield
And me and Dottie Melcher, along with a host of other misanthropes. Well, perhaps that's too harsh a description. The Mad Dob and Marsh, as we were known in high school, haven't changed a whole hell of a lot.

I won't bore you with the details but suffice it to say that there is nothing better than reconnecting with people who you saw every single day of the school year from elementary school through high school. Here's the two of us, posing for a picture, which is perhaps not the most flattering but certainly indicative of the evening.

Somewhere I have a picture of the two of us at our brothers Rich and Bob's elementary school graduation, 16 years old and thought we were hot shit. I suppose not much has changed. It truly hasn't. We had not seen each other for six years. It was more like six minutes.

How We Became Artsy Fartsy Creative Types
When Dottie and I first met in 4th grade, she had a couple of Madame Alexander dolls, large ones, that were Gone With The Wind dolls, maybe Scarlett O'Hara and Melanie. I wasn't much for dolls but I was always fascinated by their clothes. We played with those dolls for quite a while. Until the following year, when Barbie became synonymous with dolly fashion.

When Barbie came out, I was almost 10 but immediately jumped on the Barbie bandwagon because at that time, her clothing was exquisitely made, miniature to-scale zippers and snaps, wonderful lace on the $5 wedding dress that took me weeks to save up for.

I wasn't much of a seamstress but I did try to knit little outfits for Barbie. Lots of dropped stitches, of course. And nothing in the way of shaping. But the garment bug had bitten me.

By the time Dottie and I were in 10th grade in 1966, Mary Quant was our fashion heroine. Our plan for life? We'd design clothes and open up our own boutique, The Mad Dob. Dottie could draw, I couldn't. But we both sewed our own clothes and figured we were hip enough to make a go of it. The dreams of two freaky teenagers. It was a wonderful time.

Going to London in the summer of 1967 and wandering around Carnaby Street whetted our fashion appetite, although we couldn't afford to buy any clothes there. And then to France, where we were blown away by the French girls' amazing style.

By the time graduation time came, our parents had managed to redirect us. Dottie went to Boston University to major in art, I went to Wilson College to major in French because I was really better at languages and I couldn't draw a straight line. The Mad Dob was put on hold, and life continued apace.

The upshot, 40 years later? Dottie is an art director, I'm a writer. We're both still involved in garment design. She specializes in Civil War costumes, crochets and sews. I can still sew, although I haven't for a long time. And you know what I do.

This is just one of the ties that bind. But it may be the most important. Because it's the fucking Vulcan mind meld. From age 9 to 58, things have remained the same--we still laugh at the same things, love the same things, and function the same way, more or less.

If nothing else in my life, I have had extraordinary friends. But this one, this lunatic of my childhood, is the best loved by far. And is she rare and handy? Need you ask? I love her muchly. (And if you ever run into Dottie, ask her about the "electrical" banana we stole one cold December night from a Christmas display downtown. And how she managed to ignite her bangs on the Bunsen burner in chemistry class, which she claims not to remember. But I do.)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

NASCAR Mamas and Other American Slices o' Life

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Being Lutheran, Mother believed that self-pity is a deadly sin and so is nostalgia, and she had no time for either.--Garrison Keillor

If that doesn't describe my mother to a nicety, I don't know what does. And yes, we're lapsed Lutherans. However, she was no Church Lady.

Back from Charlotte last night. The final trip, I believe. We'll see. I truly like Charlotte, despite the NASCAR crap. All I can say is, one of the NASCAR Mamas damned near ran me over with her kid's stroller trying to beat me into the line for the security checkpoint. Charlotte-Douglas Airport is bad enough to navigate without some idiot who procreated careening through the crowds using a stroller as a battering ram.

She got some choice words from me. She shot me an ugly look. I smirked. That always annoys 'em.

Did you know that NASCAR has its roots in the textile industry? I didn't know that, either. Apparently, the loom mechanics in the mills souped up cars and raced them in their spare time, along with the moonshiners. The races were then eventually formalized into the gas-guzzling "sport" we know and avoid so well.

Open Mic Thursday
I was remiss last week--missed Thursday entirely. I know I was working from home that day but I'll be damned if I remember WTF kept me from writing a blog entry.

Anyway, I was thinking that perhaps there's a very good way to conserve petroleum. So here's my tongue-in-cheek question to you:

Should Congress impose a special tax on acrylic yarn, as it is actually a petroleum product?

I am an avid recycler and very much concerned about the crap that we can't recycle. Just think--thousands of acrylic sweaters thrown away over the years are lying in landfills, never to rot but only to become stinky, stringy rags that will confound the archaeologists of the future.

Ya wanna be "eco-friendly"? (God, that's such a fucking stupid term. Irritates the piss out of me.) This is a damned good reason to eschew the plastic crap, if you haven't yet figured out a better reason. And if you read this blog, chances are very good that you don't use acrylic, right? In the spirit of environmentalism, I challenge you to boycott all acrylic yarn, once and for all. This has nothing to do with being an elitist knitter. I've always been that. And fuck 'em if they can't take a joke.

A Wedding in the Fambly
Yeah, my eldest daughter Jenn got married last Sunday in New Hope, PA, to her longtime boyfriend, Norm. It was a nice, small, intimate ceremony. Those of you who were on the Knit List years ago perhaps remember her medieval wedding to her first husband back in 1996. (Well, that did produce my boy Ian, if nothing else.) For that wedding, Jenn designed and sewed her own wedding dress, quite a work of art with very elaborate embroidery. Jenn won't knit but she is an amazing seamstress and embroiderer. She takes after her Mamoo in her love of color and making something out of nothing.

Anyway, it's getting to be my bedtime. Tomorrow is Friday and I must prepare emotionally and physically (need a hair cut and a fresh dye job) for my 40th high school reunion on Saturday. I'm looking forward to seeing some old friends, especially Dottie, my oldest and dearest friend from childhood. There will be much laughter, much talking, and probably a few tears, too, for those no longer with us. Montclair High School Class of 1968 contained a few rare and handy people. Hopefully they'll show.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Remember this picture? Well, I had to lolcat it. And now, back to you in the studio.

Best Quote I Heard All Day
We of the craft are all crazy. - Lord Byron

Well, your devoted writer is undeniably nuts. And fucking proud of it, too.

A childhood friend of mine, one whose friendship I cut off because she turned into a miserable, angry, self-absorbed alcoholic floating down the River Denial, once said to me:

"Mar, you and I have sinfully underachieved. We could have been brain surgeons and look at us now. Pathetic."

My answer to her was: "Speak for yourself. I'm fine with what I do."

With the 40th high school reunion in six days, I can hold my own with the fucking brain surgeons of our class of '68.

Las Vegas Brights...again
Well, this is what I work on that I can show you because you ain't getting any pictures of the Rock Sox until the book is done and published. (That's moving along nicely, by the way. It's gonna take a while but I keep eating away at it.)

When will this madness stop? When I've knitted up the entire ball, probably. What will I do with it? I dunno, drape Cleo's toidy with it. Or perhaps wear it. For now, it's a relatively mindless project. Yes, the pattern stitch is pretty easy once you've done a repeat. The key to this lace pattern are the delayed decreases.

Huh? What she say? Delayed decreases? WTF?

The decreases are not done at the same time as their corresponding yo's. You know how you get the ole "yo, k2 tog"? That's not always the case, nor can it be for specific lace designs. Ducks ain't always in a row. Sometimes in the next row.

Gonzo Knitting

More and more lately, I've been realizing that some bizarre concept of journalism exists perhaps only in the minds of journalism majors, whose career goals are likely to be the next Katie Couric, God forbid. The real thing is ebbing away. With the awful loss of Tim Russert this week, a true journalist of the Morrow caliber, the breed is becoming extinct. If anything happens to Keith Olbermann, I don't know who we'll turn to for a sane voice, a journalist who fights for what's right, rather than for a cushy network job mouthing platitudes and doing stories about eco-friendly bikinis.

In the face of Russert's death, I am reminded of how small a microcosm knitting is in the world and how inconsequential writing about knitting and fiberart is, as well as writing about mobile asset management software. As much as I love this blog, arguably the writing I do on Swing Time is harder, more evocative, and hopefully more helpful to my readers.

Longtime Tontant Weaders know who my literary heros are. Dorothy Parker. John Lennon. Hunter S. Thompson. Duke lately more than the others because the older I get, the more I'm ready to kick the establishment, knitting or otherwise, in the ass.

So where do I go from here? A good, responsible writer always asks that question at frequent intervals. With a reprieve from my crushing work schedule, I've been thinking and rethinking. And came up with the thought of doing the occasional podcast or video, since Blogger now allows you to upload videos.

Neal will walk me through this because he is, after all, Super Jeenyus. And Super Audio Engineer. It could either be disastrous or a hell of a lot of fun. Me in person on the blog? An odd concept. But perhaps a rare and handy one.


Monday, June 09, 2008


Best Quote I Heard All Day
I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.--Oscar Wilde

This is my diary, I suppose. Anyway, just a quick entry before I hit the sack.

I will no longer have to travel. I had a feeling this would happen. It's ridiculous for the company to pay the cost of airfare or mileage, a hotel room, parking fees, a rental car when needed, plus a $45 per diem for food, when I am training clients for 4 hours, tops. And these "clients" are using our system on a trial basis for 60 days, free of charge. So it's a crap shoot. If they don't sign a contract with us at the end of the pilot period, my company has to eat the costs.

I'll be doing the training via Webex, a web conferencing provider. I prefer LiveMeeting, for those of you familiar with this stuff.

And I'm going to insist on working remotely for at least 3 days per week. With a 43-mile drive just to catch the train to Jersey City, I can't afford the gas every day.

The point of all of this is...more time to write my blogs. And knit and spin. Although you do get a ton of work done on a plane. But that's just the rationalization I was using to make myself feel better, I guess.

Stress ain't rare and handy. It's good to be back in the Land of the Living. Finally.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Open Mic Thursday is Back...Like a Bad Rash

Best Quote I Heard All Day
If you're going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it or else you're going to be locked up.--Hunter S. Thompson

I miss Uncle Duke. I wonder what his take would have been on the politics of today. Through a glass darkly, no doubt, with a hit of mescaline as a chaser.

Yesterday was a remarkable day, was it not? I stayed up past my bedtime to watch all three speeches, McBush, Hillary, and Obama. And it occurred to me that I have had the great fortune in my life to have been profoundly moved and influenced by three incredible, charismatic political figures--John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Barack Obama.

Not since Robert Kennedy have I felt such hope that reparations can be made, that we can become what we once were. A can-do nation. Not a morass of deluded and spoiled individuals concerned about what they're entitled to have.

If McBush wins this election, it has been discussed at the Washington Street abode that we'll move the Neal and Marilyn Show to Canada. We aren't kidding, either. (And yes, Neal gets first billing. Why? Because he's a Super Genius. So he says.)

Arkansas Traveler
Yepper, as we say here in NEPA, I was down in Klinton Kountry last week for three days. Stayed in Little Rock, drove 70 miles out to a town called Russellville to train a new client. And hot damn, had a Mustang for a rental. Yeah, baby.

On the way back, I made a quick stop at the Clinton Library. I must say, I was extremely underwhelmed by this edifice. Not bad for a cellphone pic, though.

And I didn't feel much like paying admission. But the Arkansas River was very pretty. I did walk around the grounds a bit.

Las Vegas Brights
Knitting on the plane seems to be where I get the most work done. With the Cobweb Crepe shawl now too big to stash in my backpack, I decided that knitting up the Las Vegas Brights silk that I spun back in March would be much more packable, quick to remove prior to stashing the backpack in the overhead compartment.

Choosing a pattern was easy. Ever since I bought Sharon Miller's Heirloom Lace, I've wanted to use the Old Spanish Lace Border in something. This is the something.

Yes, it's certainly bright, although I took this picture out on the porch at 9:30 tonight, so the flash rather garished it up. This is simply a detail shot. The entire piece is 89 stitches wide, perfect for a largish scarf. Or perhaps a very funky curtain.

I figure, if three flight attendants and Neal all thought it was beautiful, then perhaps they know more than I do. As far as I'm concerned, the jury is out on the colorations until the whole 800 yards has been knitted up.

Open Mic Thursday
Well, now that I seem to have slowed down with the travel, other than another trip to Charlotte the week after next, it's back to business as usual.

I've not been on Ravelry in months. It's the time factor, frankly. I don't use it for cataloging my junk. First, because I honestly don't want to know what I have, other than my books, which are up on Knowing exactly what I have stashwise would probably make me feel severely wretched. Second, I haven't had the time to read any of the forums to which I belong.

That said, what I'd like to know is:

Are you still using Ravelry? If not, why not?

I continue to see the value in Ravelry, although probably not for me. One friend, who shall go nameless, says that it can be an enormous time waster. Another friend is convinced that it has become KnitDweeb Heaven. Well, that was rather easy to predict. It is what it is, and you can use it as you wish.

So gang, it's time to switch over to SwingTime, where I'll be writing about childhood bipolar disorder. An interesting subject, one that was recently covered in Newsweek.

A diet of airplane pretzels is enough to make one gag. I counted 13.5 mini pretzels in the last bag I ate. Yes, I did count them. Why the fuck not? If I never see another airport again, it will be just swell. Flying is most certainly not rare and handy. Especially when you spend nine hours in the Charlotte/Douglas airport.