Because it’s been a while since I posted anything about knitting…

A study in contrasts:

Splendid knitting patterns from the new Knitty. This sweater is going to be my next Big Ambitious Project.

Hideous knitting patterns from You Knit What??, with snarky commentary. Thank God I’m not the only one horrified by eighties sweater design. (C/o Frogs and Ravens.)

Anatomy of a good day

Yesterday morning I got up, noticed the chill coming in from my open window, and thought "I’d better put more covers on the bed tonight." On my way out the front door, I donned the first jacket of fall, which I took off after a few blocks’ brisk walk, with the sunlight still aslant but warming fast. (Too late, I realized I’d forgotten to carry lip balm; today was also the day all the humidity abruptly vanished from the air.) There was no way to do justice to the sheer depth of the sky over us and the still, solemn, not-yet-frost morning, so my coworkers and I all contented ourselves with saying "Perfect weather, yes, if only it were like this all year, what a day."

And the whole day was like that: a sense of quiet as the students took off for an extended weekend; a gratifying message of thanks from a patron I’d helped at the reference desk; the loose ends of the week easily sorted out, for once; more sunlight during my lunch break; actual writing added at the end of the day to my still-in-progress article, which keeps leading me to small discoveries I hadn’t expected to make; a walk downtown to dinner with friends after work; an idea for another writing project, which will, if all works out, be a collaboration; after-dinner gelato at Splendora’s, which was offering seasonally evocative flavors like apple cider (next time I’ll have to try their incredibly rich hot chocolate, which two of my dining companions ordered); and so home and to bed after unearthing the blankets from the linen closet.

This summer hasn’t been the best or easiest of times (she said understatedly). Fall seems more welcome than ever because it brings an end to summer; it’s a sign that there must, in the end, be change, even if it’s only in the air and the leaves and the sudden coolness in the air first thing in the morning. May the leaves turn soon.

Shakespeare meme

I never pass up the opportunity to quote Shakespeare, so I was very happy to come across the "When you see this, quote Shakespeare!" meme. I had a bunch of possible passages in mind, but then I remembered this, from Antony and Cleopatra:

    [Enter a company of Soldiers.]
1. Sold. Brother, good night; to-morrow is the day.
2. Sold. It will determine one way; fare you well.
Heard you of nothing strange about the streets?
1. Sold. Nothing. Belike ’tis but a rumor. Good night to you.
2. Sold. Well, sir, good night.
    [They meet other Soldiers.]
2. Sold. Soldiers, have careful watch.
3. Sold. And you. Good night, good night.
    [They place themselves in every corner of the stage.]
2. Sold. Here we. And if to-morrow
Our navy thrive, I have an absolute hope
Our landmen will stand up.
1. Sold.                                    ‘Tis a brave army,
And full of purpose.
    [Music of the hoboys is heard under the stage.]
2. Sold. Peace, what noise?
1. Sold.                                    List, list!
2. Sold. Hark!
1. Sold.            Music i’ th’ air.
3. Sold.                                     Under the earth.
4. Sold. It signs well, does it not?
3. Sold.                                             No.
1. Sold.                                                    Peace, I say.
What should this mean?
2. Sold. ‘Tis the god Hercules, whom Antony lov’d,
Now leaves him.
1. Sold.                 Walk; let’s see if other watchmen
Do hear what we do.
2. Sold.                        How now, masters?
All. (Speak together.)                                How now?
How now? Do you hear this?
1. Sold.                                     Ay, is’t not strange?
3. Sold. Do you hear, masters? Do you hear?
1. Sold. Follow the noise so far as we have quarter;
Let’s see how it will give off.
All. Content. ‘Tis strange.
(Antony and Cleopatra, act 4, scene 3)

What I love about this scene (which is based on Plutarch’s account of the night before Antony’s final defeat in the Life of Antony, chapter 75) is that it’s one of the moments when we know the plot’s moving definitively toward tragedy, but neither of the main characters is there to witness it. Instead, we see the whole scene through a group of characters so minor they don’t even have names, who aren’t sure how to interpret what’s going on and don’t know what’s going to happen next. (Almost casual, that explanation: "’Tis the god Hercules, whom Antony lov’d, / Now leaves him.") And the music under the stage, which, when done right, is strangely eerie; the supernatural doesn’t really show up in this play (frequent references to Roman and Egyptian gods notwithstanding) until this moment, when we don’t expect it. And then there’s always C. P. Cavafy’s poem about the same incident.

Coming to a theater near you: Seventeenth-century libertine poets.

In the Department of Movies I’m Eagerly Looking Forward To: The Libertine, starring Johnny Depp as the notorious John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester. But why isn’t Aphra Behn in it? I want to see someone make a movie about her. Meanwhile, scribblingwoman blogs about reading Rochester with her students, one of whom was amazed that four-letter words were in use "back then." (This, as I recall, was part of the fun of teaching Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale back in my course assistant days.)

The 21st century version of the fireside chat

One more reason why Barack Obama should run for president someday: He now has a podcast. What a great idea.

(In other news: Finally upgraded to a paid LibraryThing account. The catalog is now at 276 books and climbing rapidly. My word, but I’m tired.)

Ahoy, me hearties!

Yarrrr! Happy Talk Like A Pirate Day, mateys!

(On a related note, a friend reminds me that Talk Like A Pirate Day marks the end of Pastafarian Holy Week. All hail the Flying Spaghetti Monster!)

Anecdote recounted in lieu of getting real writing done

It’s a Saturday afternoon and I’m sitting at my office desk working on this article I’ve been writing.* (I can’t seem to make myself work on it at home, and if I need to track down a citation at the last minute, the stacks are a five-second walk away — one of the many advantages to working in a big library.) In the middle of composing one of those inevitable long first footnotes**, I did a quick search of the MLA International Bibliography to make sure that nobody else has published anything major on my topic since I did my dissertation research. When the list of search results popped up, my dissertation was the first. My first thought was "I don’t remember that title, who wrote — wait a minute!"

I am suddenly reminded of the anecdote in Freud’s essay "The Uncanny" where he mistakes his own reflection for another passenger in a train compartment. Hmm, I wonder if there’s a way to work "The Uncanny" into my current project…

Right. Must finish this article in a timely manner. Going to post this and then shut the browser window and quit procrastinating.

* I’m trying to do the independent-scholar thing and write the occasional essay in my spare time. I may blog more about it once the draft I’m wrestling with is done.

** If you’ve ever read or written an academic article, you know the type of footnote I’m talking about: "For a general introduction to Topic X, see [long list of authors]. For an opposing view, see [author I cordially despise]. [Author I agree with] makes a similar argument to mine in his/her seminal work on Topic X, but I focus here on [angle that makes this article original enough to be published, hopefully; oh my God, everyone’s gotten to my topic before I did, there’s nothing new to say at all, AAAACK!]. Oh, and see also [several more sources thrown in for good measure because I don’t think this footnote looks long enough yet]."

What she said

If we can remember this, remember that the "family" and the "village" are not mutually exclusive, that my rights and yours do not need to cancel each other out, that the interests of mothers and children are not at odds, then I think we will become a better society. I hope that as the arc of history bends towards justice more of us will change our lives to look outward, to form alliances and friendships, to consider the needs of others, including those who are very different from ourselves. That we will develop empathy.

Dr. B. says what I’ve been thinking. Go read the whole thing. Speaking of empathy, last week’s episode of This American Life ("After the Flood," a program consisting entirely of eyewitness accounts of post-Katrina New Orleans) ought to be required listening for anyone who panics at the thought of "looters" (like, maybe, the entire population of Gretna).

Cataloging frenzy

I’ve been on a news-and-blogging break for the past few days. Too much bad news, too many sources of futile teeth-gnashing. But today was a surprisingly good day, and I’m joining in the chorus of voices currently singing the praises of LibraryThing, which lets you catalog your own book collection. I signed up today, and during the ensuing mad cataloging frenzy, my catalog grew to 50 items in the space of a few hours. I’ll be experimenting with the blog widget ere long; for now, it looks like I’ll be upgrading to a paid account before the week is out. I love the combination of social tagging and LC-mining. It’s turning out to be completely addictive.

…speaking of which, I really ought to eat dinner instead of running back to the shelf for another armload of books to add to the catalog…

On a somewhat more cheerful note…

According to Making Light, the Society for Creative Anachronism is organizing its own relief efforts. As one commenter puts it, "We are weirdo geeks, but we are very skilled resourceful geeks." Blessed are the geeks.