WIP Wednesday, Double Stuf Edition

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It’s been a while since I did a WIP post on either of my projects, so guess what? Today you’re getting BOTH. Lucky you!

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L’Esperance, pattern designed by Michele Sayetta via Heaven and Earth Designs. Worked in floss, 1×1, on 25ct Lugana. Currently working on fourth page of 48.

 

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Peacock Tapestry from “Art Nouveau Cross-Stitch,” by Barbara Hammet. Worked in wool on 10ct canvas mesh. Currently on second page of six.

ALA Midwinter 2016 ARCs

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I’m already on my third book of this conference’s haul of Advance Reader Copies, and I’ve enjoyed them all so far. Two of them I think I’ll pass along, since they’re of the type that’s fun to read but I don’t expect to want to read them a second time. One I’m definitely keeping. It was FUN.

  1. Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, by Paul Krueger (KEEPING.) (6/16)
  2. The Turning Point, by Freya North (fun, weepy. Has Lifetime Movie written all over it.) (5/16)
  3. The History of Great Things, by Elizabeth Crane (interesting format, worth a read) (4/16)
  4. Arcadia, by Iain Pears (2/16)
  5. Some of the Parts, by Hannah Barnaby (2/16)
  6. Rare Objects, by Kathleen Tessaro (4/16)
  7. Julia Vanishes, by Catherine Egan (6/16)
  8. Ten Prayers that Changed the World: Extraordinary Stories of Faith that Shaped the Course of History, by Jean-Pierre Isbouts (3/16)
  9. Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America, by Douglas Brinkley (3/16)
  10. The Decent Proposal, by Kemper Donovan (4/16)
  11. Sisi: Empress on Her Own, by Allison Pataki (3/16)
  12. City of Secrets, by Stewart O’Nan (4/16)
  13. Three-Martini Lunch, by Suzanne Rindell (4/16)

 

I wanted to talk a little about Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge. The reason I’m keeping it is because I read it in 24 hours and when I turned the last page, my first thought was to wish for a sequel so I could spend more time with those characters. But as I thought about it more in the hours after finishing, I realized that it does something unusual. It has a cast that is diverse in the way that Shonda Rhimes shows are diverse – it’s just who was cast, and the characters are generally not entirely based on what makes them diverse.

Last Call‘s main character is Bailey Chen, a Chinese-American woman. The main cast also includes a blind gay man, an African-American woman, and a post-transition trans man. The only one of those adjectives that plays ANY significant role in the plot is that Vincent is blind. I am particularly pleased by the treatment of the trans man. That element of his character literally comes up in one short scene, and it in no way defines his story arc. I really like that about the way Paul Krueger designed that character, and the character in question is one of the most appealing of the entire story. I heartily recommend this book, and I hope you all look into it when it comes out, especially if you like magic and mixology.

Holidays Again

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Here we are again. December 23rd. Nearly the 24th, but we’ll see how long it takes me to hit the “post” button.

Last year, I posted this holiday plea on behalf of the long-term unemployed or underemployed population.  I asked that the people I encountered inquire about the work I was doing, rather than the status of my job-search.

My suggestions in that post still hold true, but for me personally, well, ask about my job search all you want this year.

On December first, I interviewed for the position of Librarian and Archivist at the American Bookbinders Museum in San Francisco. On December fourth, I received an offer for that position. On December fifteenth, I started work.

The dust from that particular whirlwind is still settling, but it seems to be a pretty good fit. It’s more than a little nerve-wracking, going from student and freelance positions to effectively being head librarian and head archivist (okay, so there’s nobody under me except the occasional volunteer, but that doesn’t make my position any less “head”). Apparently in the library world these kinds of positions are called “lone ranger” librarians. Clearly I need some kind of Old West hat to go with the term.

There are some things I miss about freelancing already – not the least of which are sleeping and having free time – but it’s so nice to have coworkers and people to talk to during the day, as well as people to bounce ideas off. One of the things about the freelancing jobs I’ve had in the past two years that I really didn’t like was how lonely it always was.

This is a huge adjustment for me on every level. Nerve-wracking though the professional steps up may be, the puzzles and challenges presented to me so far have my brain buzzing with ideas, and my new colleagues are supportive and understanding about my anxieties about the size of what I’ve taken on. The puzzles will sort themselves out with time, patience, and care, much like the challenge of picking apart a huge mass of knotted threads. One of the things that’s really hard for me at the moment, though, is finding a new balance to my day. At the moment, I’ve got little time or energy for much other than work (and the associated commute, which turns work into a 12-hour day, thanks to the peculiar quirks of Caltrain’s schedule), meals, and going to bed so I can get up and do it all again. I do need to find a way to work in a necessarily small but regular dose of my meditation/anxiety management techniques, by which I mean my crafting.

I don’t anticipate writing about the job much here, as I have no intention of running the risk of doocing myself, but yeah. I got a formal library job at last!

So yeah. American Bookbinders Museum. Check it out. And come visit!

Some Miscellany

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It’s been over a month since my last post. Normally I’d prefer to post weekly, but I don’t much like posting for the sake of posting. Anyway, here are some photos from the past month.  

  Minion-o-lantern!
  
    
A little downtown fall color. I love the way the pistachio trees change. 

 
Thanksgiving whimsy. 

   
Waiting for the lessons and carols service at MemChu to begin. 
  
Dickens Fair hair! That’s today. 

So yeah. It’s been quite a month, mostly full of stuff I prefer to keep off-blog, at least for now. Looks like 2015 will end better than it started. 

 

Im Labyrinth des Schweigens: Labyrinth of Lies

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I just got back from the cinema, where I saw the German film LABYRINTH OF LIES. It is a masterfully-constructed story about a young and rule-bound prosecutor in Frankfurt in 1958 who starts picking away at the cultural whitewash concealing the truth of the Nazi “Final Solution.” Somehow it is deeply unsettling and cathartic all at once.

The film opens with a schoolyard at recess time. Three male teachers are wandering around, half supervising and half discussing something innocuous – possibly sports – and one goes over to the fence to offer a man searching for his matchbook a light for his cigarette. As he leans in to light his cigarette, he looks at the face of the teacher holding the lighter. He blanches, drops his art supplies, and flees.

We then turn to a young lawyer in the public prosecutor’s office, who is stuck dealing with traffic violations, but is strict about enforcing the letter of the law rather than making exceptions or dealing in gray areas. When the artist, Kirsch, from the first scene arrives at the prosecutor’s office with apparently a known muckraking journalist, Gnielka, the young lawyer, Radmann, is intrigued. He does research into the teacher, discovers he was indeed an SS guard at Auschwitz, and thus is not permitted to teach. He files his report and thinks he’s done his job. In a conversation with Gnielka, it becomes painfully clear that nobody of Radmann’s generation or younger knows anything about Auschwitz. Most have never heard of it. Thus begins a path of excruciating education for Radmann and the others working with him on a case that keeps expanding to encompass what began with one former SS guard, expands to fifteen former commanders at Auschwitz, and then turns into some eight thousand individuals who were stationed at Auschwitz during WWII.

The struggle that Radmann faces is the realization that there is no community, no family, no place in Germany that he can go where the people are entirely innocent of the atrocities of the Final Solution. If they didn’t actually kill others, they failed to speak up. He becomes bitterly aware of the common excuse of “just following orders,” and grows increasingly consumed by his obsession with catching Dr. Josef Mengele, known to many as the Angel of Death. In one agonizing scene, the artist Kirsch finally breaks down and tells Radmann and Gnielka part of his story, about arriving at Auschwitz and meeting a seemingly gentle doctor in white gloves who admired his young twin daughters. In a few sentences, he describes one of the most infamous and most appalling aspects of all of that period – the medical experiments performed on twins by Mengele and his staff.

Johann Radmann is a fictional composite of the two real prosecutors in the Auschwitz trials that began in Frankfurt in 1963 and lasted nearly two years. They were Joachim Kugler and Georg Friedrich Vogel. Both died within the last ten years. Many of the other characters in the film, such as State Attorney General Fritz Bauer (played by Gert Voss in his final role), were real people.

This is one of those movies that’s not exactly one you “like,” because that implies you enjoyed it. I was completely gripped by it.

Alexander Fehling is a master of the micro-expression as realization of what he is uncovering dawns. He goes from businesslike detachment to looking increasingly exhausted and emotionally frayed. He looks like he’s been losing sleep. There are even a few dream sequences illustrating his growing fixation on Mengele. At one point he tells Gnielka that “Mengele is Auschwitz.” Fehling and the film show the way Holocaust survivor stories get under your skin and consume you. I have spent much of the last ten months listening to survivor interviews in the course of research for a client – it wasn’t brand new information to me the way it is to Radmann, but it’s still so easy to lose yourself in the pain and horror.

I am glad the film has no concentration camp flashback scenes – survivor testimony and the charges leveled at the accused are delivered plainly, forcing you as the audience to look both survivors and perpetrators in the face.

One thing LABYRINTH OF LIES (by the way, it turns out the German title actually translates to LABYRINTH OF SILENCE, which might have been more appropriate, if somewhat less dramatic) does particularly well is the nuanced depiction of what I would describe as survivor guilt. There’s the expected kind, of Kirsch the artist mourning his lost daughters and wondering why he lived when they died. But there’s also the raw guilt of Radmann, the unconscious heir of the father he never knew was a Nazi Party member, coming to realize everyone over a certain age in his country was likely complicit in some way, even if it was just through silence and looking away.

There’s the third guilt, though – the guilt of the journalist Gnielka, who was seventeen when he was drafted into the army and stationed at Auschwitz. His guilt drives him to seek and punish the others who worked at the camps, to make the stories of what really happened there public. He is driven by his own shame at having been a part of it, though he had little choice in the matter, and he tried to pass bread and cigarettes to some of the prisoners when he could.

At one point, he and Radmann go to Auschwitz itself at Kirsch’s request, to say Kaddish for his little girls. Kirsch has been unwell and cannot travel, so the two non-Jews go to Auschwitz with a prayer book and try to say the prayer for his children. Gnielka asks Radmann what he sees. “Auschwitz,” he replies. “No,” Gnielka says. “You see a meadow. A fence, barracks, and a meadow. Auschwitz is the victims and their stories.”

Like most studies of human atrocities committed upon each other, this film adds to the message that memory is what’s most important. Acknowledging what happened and making it part of the public awareness, not covering it up and trying to move on as though it hadn’t happened. In Hebrew, it’s zachor, remembrance.

This film has already been selected and submitted by Germany for consideration by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. I hope it makes the nomination shortlist so that more people go see it.

WIP Wednesday

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Approximately 4% complete! When I finish this page it’ll be just over 5% complete at 15,386 stitches out of the total 304,650.

L’Esperance, based on original artwork by Diogene Maillard. This pattern designed and charted by Michele Sayetta, available at Heaven and Earth Designs. Stitched on 25ct Lugana, 1×1.

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CSI: Finale

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I watched the series finale of CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION on Sunday evening when it aired, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot since. I’ve been thinking about the episode, the series, and why I’m so sad the series has ended.

To begin with the episode itself: I liked the story. I liked that they didn’t entirely introduce all-new villains and suspects, and I liked that since they were bringing back Grissom, they brought back Lady Heather. And unlike a lot of the professional reviewers out there, I did not recognize the actor playing the character eventually revealed to be the source of the bombings, so I wasn’t able to predict the whodunnit of the episode. I thought the reunion between Grissom and Sara was plausibly awkward and complicated on both sides, I liked the return of Catherine and Brass and the reintroduction of Catherine’s daughter Lindsey. I even liked the climactic scene in the parking garage in which Morgan, Greg, and Catherine have to defuse a daisy-chain bomb simultaneously – Morgan’s trembling and post-defusing reaction were completely plausible to me instead of just needless tension-building.

There have been some show finales that left me angry – HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER is probably the prime example of that, but I wasn’t entirely thrilled with the finale of WAREHOUSE 13, either. I don’t like it when shows feel like they need to force a romantic conclusion in characters at the finale – not everyone who works together ends up in a relationship, after all. With HIMYM I was one of the many people left yelling at the television, while with WAREHOUSE 13 I saw the whole Myka/Pete thing coming all through the final season, so I wasn’t surprised by it. I didn’t find it believable, though.

CSI didn’t leave me angry, but it left me disappointed. I never found the relationship between Sara and Grissom particularly interesting or compelling, and I was a little disappointed in Sara for apparently abandoning a totally deserved promotion that she was happy about in order to sail into the sunset (literally) with her ex-husband. More than that, though, I was sad that the show didn’t give us a chance to say goodbye to the other characters.

The CSI franchise, in all its incarnations, has always been about the ensembles. There is someone who is nominally leading the show (this tends to be the person in charge of the lab/division) but it’s always been an ensemble-driven production. Looking back at the CSI finale, I realize that our farewell to Julie Finlay was a very quick glimpse of her memorial plaque. Jim Brass’ last scene was after the Heather-decoy’s car blew up and he had burns on his back. Hodges and Henry appeared for the last time very briefly about halfway through the episode. Morgan and Greg were last seen trembling and crying after defusing the bombs in the parking garage. Doc Robbins and Dave were also last seen briefly in the morgue, about halfway through the episode. We got to say farewell to Russell (though not really, as Ted Danson and his character DB Russell are switching over to the surviving CSI show, CSI: CYBER this fall), Grissom, and Sara. We sort of got to say goodbye to Catherine as she indicated an interest in leaving the FBI in order to lead the Las Vegas Crime Lab again.

I am disappointed that the production staff of the final episode thought we all had so much resting on Grissom and Sara that we wouldn’t care to say a proper goodbye to the rest of the main cast. I was never a Grissom/Sara shipper. If anything, I wanted to see Morgan and Hodges finally doing something about the whatever-it-is that’s been simmering beneath the surface for years.

It’s an ensemble show. I wish it had ended with the ensemble.

To turn now to the show as a whole – you may be wondering why I’m putting so much thought into a show that may have been groundbreaking initially, but has been little more than a “reliable performer” in recent years. I know it comes in for a lot of mocking. And no, it’s not at the level of a MAD MEN. Though it was groundbreaking when it began, and it fundamentally changed the crime procedural genre.

I started watching CSI a few years ago, when I was in Vancouver for library school. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post or two, a few months into my two academic years in Vancouver, I started struggling with the physical symptoms of a uterine fibroid, which made getting out and about frequently difficult and uncomfortable. Pop culture “comfort food” can be good, but when you’re looking for as much distraction as possible, it can be better to turn to something new.

I watched a handful of new shows during that time – CRIMINAL MINDS, CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION, CSI: NY, CSI: MIAMI, EUREKA, and WAREHOUSE 13. All of them have stuck with me. I think it’s because I was looking for distraction from great physical and psychological discomfort – I didn’t just watch the shows casually, I focused on them in an intentional effort to lose myself in the stories and the characters. I didn’t just return the dvds to the library when I was done watching; I kept them as long as I could and watched them over and over. When I couldn’t sleep for one reason or another, I watched them. For better or for worse, I clung to these shows in an effort to forget my own pain and fear for a while. Losing them – and mostly they are all now gone – creates the same ache as the end of a series of novels you love, or the death of an artist whose work you always enjoyed. What’s been created can always be revisited, but there will be nothing new to keep fleshing out that world.

The only one of the shows I listed there that’s still running is CRIMINAL MINDS. Someday, and probably someday within the next couple years, that one will go off the air, too. That’ll be a hard day.

WIP Wednesday

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Progress on L’Esperance! Still on page 2, but by my estimation, I’ve completed more than 10,000 stitches, which puts me at a little over 3% done with the total 304,650 stitches.

Stop laughing. I call that progress.

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Luna

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LunaDear Luna,

This morning I woke up to a pounding on my door and the sound of my mother crying. She told me that you were dead.

You didn’t pass away gently in your sleep. You were killed, probably by raccoons. It was a violent death, and definitely not one I ever wanted for you – indeed, I had never considered it in my list of possibilities. You weren’t a fighter – sure, you’d gotten into a couple scraps over the years, but it was pretty rare that it went farther than exchanging insults in that particular yowling tone that cats have. I wanted you to slip away in your sleep, curled up in a sunbeam.

I don’t want to think about how you looked this morning when we found you. It’s something that’s going to haunt me, and I couldn’t even bring myself to go closer than five or six feet away. It’s my mother who was brave enough to wrap you in a piece of fabric like a shroud.

Luna, I knew you for almost your entire life. When I started sixth grade, my teacher told us her cat had just had a litter of four kittens, and that if we wanted, we could come see them if we wanted one. I met you at three weeks old, and I loved you on sight. You were this tiny little puffball of white fur with a toothpick of a black tail and little black ears sticking up over those bright blue eyes. I wasn’t a particularly large eleven-year-old, and you fit comfortably into my cupped hands. One of my friends adopted one of your siblings, a high-strung grey creature prone to hiding under beds, and your tabby-like sibling went to another classmate, a boy who followed me around for a week, trying to persuade me to trade you for the tabby. Obviously I refused. Our blue eyes had met and we had bonded. You met me at the school when I came home from a weeklong field trip to Walden West. I have a picture of me hugging you there at the pickup. Poor Luna, you were probably terrified.

The early adjustment was a little bumpy, as you were never good at changes, and this was the biggest of your life. At seven or eight weeks old you were taken from the home and the family you knew and handed to us. I remember that sometimes in those first few weeks, you seemed to have bad dreams. You’d start trembling and whimpering in your sleep, and I found it terribly upsetting.

But you settled in. You played games, you loved catnip and chasing a toy that was some pieces of cardboard attached to a thick wire, so I could make it jump and twirl. In those early days you behaved a bit more like a normal cat, although you were never a lap cat. I have a photo of you sitting on the fabric my mom was trying to run through the sewing machine, with an expression that really says, “Well? What do you want?”

I don’t think we trained you. I think you trained us. We couldn’t get you to keep a collar on, and we never put in a cat door, worrying about other critters getting inside the house. That meant that we were your butlers, opening and closing the doors when you asked. This was particularly irritating on rainy days, as you’d insist on checking ALL the doors to see if it was raining outside all of them. That said, in spite of your aversion to rain and continually-expressed surprise and betrayal whenever the sprinklers went off (every other morning for, like 80% of your life, but you never picked up on the pattern), you had a preference for drinking from puddles, drip lines, and so on. I have a memory of you at about age two, sitting in the middle of a mud puddle and carefully washing your paws, then replacing them in the mud puddle. It took you a while to figure out that you’d already DONE those paws a few times over.

In some ways, we were lucky with you. Yes, you scratched up the furniture, shed everywhere, and generally made a nuisance of yourself at times, but we also never had to worry about you getting on counters, messing with holiday decorations, or hiding deceased prey anywhere. Your idea of hunting, in fact, was to sit in plain view, purring loudly, while the robins laughed their heads off at the very idea. You got hold of a fledgling or two, but you never really knew what to do with them, so you carried them around for a while until we noticed and separated you from your frightened toy.

In fact, over the years, we defended you from a number of adversaries. At the first sign of yowling, we’d all bolt outside with flashlights and shouts to drive off whoever was bullying you. Usually it was a neighbor cat, but occasionally it was something larger. A year or two ago, you spent a few months being harassed by a particularly aggressive scrub jay who had a nest in the trellis above the back door. I am so, so sorry I wasn’t able to protect you this time. That’s the part that hurts most at the moment.

Last month you turned eighteen, and in the past few years you really turned into a cranky old lady cat. Your grooming went downhill, you began refusing to use the litterbox, and one of your ears was permanently crumpled and folded over due to one of those blood vessel things cats can get if they scratch their ears too hard. A month or two ago, we realized that you were showing pretty much all the symptoms of feline dementia, and we started to wonder about your vision and hearing, but you were physically fine, so we just tried to adjust to your new issues. You were old, that’s all.

You were always surprisingly loud. For a cat who really never got above 8lbs (and most of that was fur), you had remarkable volume. Whether purring, washing, or talking, you could be heard all over the house. How did you DO that?

You drove us crazy sometimes, but you were OUR weirdo kitty, and we loved you. I hope wherever you are now you can find your mama and finally get an answer to how a shorthaired grey cat with green eyes managed to have a white and black longhair with blue eyes. We used to call your father the Midnight Marauder – you were the only one of your siblings who looked like that. Two of your siblings were grey, and one was a mixture of tabby and white. All were shorthaired.

I’m glad I took a moment to pet you yesterday. I’m sorry I took to calling you “Whiny” of late.

Luna, Lu, Lunar Object, Lunarsich, Lunatic, Leafbutt –

We miss you. We’re so sorry it ended this way.

Forgive us.

Elspeth

WIP Wednesday, Wool Edition

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Some of the people on a cross-stitching community online that I’ve joined talk about doing multiple projects in a rotation. I’ve never really had more than one going at a time before, but since I’ve started taking on larger projects, I’ve decided to try this rotation idea. One of the reasons it takes me as long to finish projects as it does is that I get bored, and set it aside for months, or, as in the case of this blasted Peacock Rug, years.

Currently I’m trying 2 weeks on L’Esperance, and one week on the peacock. That will likely change as the holidays approach and I set stitching aside for my usual holiday beadwork crafting, but for the moment, this is what I’m trying.

So here’s the current progress on the peacock. For any who are curious, it’s worked on 10-count canvas mesh with steel yarn needles, using Anchor Tapisserie wools.

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