A Good Yarn

Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Memorial Day!

I hope everyone is enjoying their long weekend as much as I am. I still get a little thrill out of having a day off of work and still getting paid.

I've had some good crafting time over the weekend. I finished up the last of my Knitters for Obama preemie hats:

These are winging their way off to the old home state, South Dakota. And with that, the primary/caucus season is over and we're done knitting preemie hats. Once the nomination is official, we'll be knitting for the general election, if you're interested in joining in.

I've also started a couple of new projects. The first I officially started a couple of months ago, but I put it on hold to finish up my projects from Yarnover. And it's not even knitting:

It's the first square for the Babette blanket. I'm not much of a crocheter, but I got help getting started from two women in my lunchtime knitting group who are very good crocheters and now I'm on my way. It's a fairly simple pattern to crochet, if you're thinking about it and intimidated by the idea of crocheting all those squares. Obviously, it's a bit futzy with all of the color changes and sewing the squares together, though.

The original project is gorgeous and brightly colored, but since I already made a really brightly colored blanket recently, I decided to go in a different direction and go with more neutral colors. The original also calls for Koigu, which is fantastic, but a little pricey. So I'm using one of my all time favorite yarns, Rowan Classic Yarns Cashsoft 4-Ply. Not the cheapest yarn on the planet, but I got a lot of it on sale at Elann, so it wasn't prohibitively expensive. And it's amazingly soft. Stay tuned for more developments.

And I couldn't let a long weekend pass without a movie:

Oh my gosh, I loved this movie! I don't know what took me so long to see it with a cast like this. Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell star as a couple of Irish hitmen who work for an English gangster played by Ralph Fiennes. Farrell and Gleeson are shipped off to Bruges, Belgium after one of their hits goes awry and then need to hide out for a while. This suits Gleeson just fine - he loves the architecture and history of the place and Bruges really does look gorgeous in the film. Farrell is bored to tears though, having the intelligence and maturity of about a 12 year old. Things don't go as planned in Bruges, either, though, so Fiennes ends up having to show up and set things straight. And that's all I'll say about the plot, because you need to see it all unfold for yourself. It's all put together like a thing of beauty - with one event causing another, causing another. It's really a well written script. It's so unique too - hilariously funny but deadly serious in turns. I guess the closest I could compare it to is Pulp Fiction. Though this isn't anywhere near as bloody as Pulp Fiction and is actually funnier. And I can't review the film without commenting on how great it is to see Colin Farrell again, especially in such a great role. A few if us at work came up with our lists, you know the list, the five people who would get a pass from your significant other for if you had a chance to you know, get intimate with. Farrell is on my list and seeing him in glasses really confirmed his place on the list!

I also need to bring your attention to another film I saw this weekend, this time on DVD:

This is an amazing documentary about how our handling of post-Saddam Iraq has gone so poorly. The film clearly and in a really simple way lays out the decisions that were made and how that led to the chaos that ensued. Most of the most illuminating interviews are with people who were part of the Bush Administration's work in Iraq, so these are not crazy-eyed liberals who were opposed to the war from the start. I can think of no better way to honor our servicemen and women than to see this film and really understand why so many died needlessly in this war and how to make better decisions in the future so that this situation does not happen again.

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Monday, May 19, 2008


Oh boy, it's been a long time since I've posted an FO (at least one bigger than a preemie cap or bib). I finished the Cable Lattice Socks:

Project Name: Cable Lattice Socks
Designer: Coats Patons
Pattern Source: Knitnet
Yarn: Socks That Rock - Little Bunny Foo Foo
Yarn Source: Blue Moon Fiber Arts
Date Started: 2/16/08
Date Completed: 5/18/08

These are a little funky with the change from striping to flashing, but I kind of like them. The pattern is very straightforward and not difficult. My slowness in finishing them was just lack of knitting time, not difficulty with the pattern or the knitting itself. I fell in love with Socks That Rock all over again with this pair of socks, but I came so so close to running out of yarn - just a couple of yards left when I finished. I probably could have made them .05 to 1 repeat shorter and been ok, too.

It seems like I always have more coming into the stash than I have going out. I got a couple of new skeins of sock yarn as part of the Amazing Threads sock club:

I'm not a huge fan of the footie pattern that came with the yarn and this yarn is thicker than I typically like to use for socks, so I'll probably knit something else with this yarn.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

More than just Movies

I finished up another preemie cap for the Knitters for Obama effort - this one was shipped off to Kentucky.

I also saw something a little more mainstream than the Film Festival stuff I've been reviewing lately:

I have to say, though, I loved it! I'm a sci fi/comic book fan, so I love it when a super hero film is done right and I definitely would say this was done right. If you're one of the few who haven't seen it yet, Iron Man is the alter ego of Tony Stark, a millionaire playboy who owns a weapons manufacturing company. He's a genius and when he's injured while showing off his newest weapon in Afghanistan, he gets himself out of captivity by building himself a suit of armor out of pieces of his weapons - oh yeah, a FLYING suit of armor. When he was initially captured, he took a lot of shrapnel in the chest. He has an electronic magnet implanted in his chest to keep the sharpnel from flowing through his veins into his heart, killing him. Robert Downey, Jr. plays Tony Stark/Iron Man and it's brilliant casting. Downey's own checkered history and redemption give a certain honesty to his portrayal of Stark. The film has fantastic special effects and keeps you totally engaged in the story. There is also a layer to the story about war and profiteering that will keep serious moviegoers interested too. But this is seriously a fantastic popcorn movie and the perfect way to kick off the summer movie season.

Besides movie-going, I've also been enjoying some music. I saw this fantastic duo:

What a wonderful show. They each have really gorgeous voices, but joined together it's just magical. They played a number of songs from "Once", some songs from their album and a couple of new songs. The crowd was really enthusiastic. They definitely have a devoted following. Glen Hansard introduced almost all of the songs and in true Irish fashion, couldn't resist a bit of storytelling. Sometimes the song intros were longer than the songs themselves. :-) Overall it made for a really wonderful evening and I hope this pair is together for a long time to come.

I also got to see this hilarious duo:

Another completely enjoyable evening. My friends and I had rockstar seats for this one and it was so much fun to see Flight of the Conchords up close and personal. If you haven't seen their show on HBO, their a New Zealand duo who play folky/pop songs with witty and hilarious lyrics. The tv show weaves their songs into each episode where they play characters very similar to themselves - kind of like Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Seeing the songs performed without the context of the show wasn't any less enjoyable. Bret and Jemaine are both goofy, funny and completely adorable. If you haven't seen this show and enjoy smart humor, check it out.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Wrapping Up M-SPIFF

I ended the film festival like I began it - watching a documentary by one of the masters of the form. This time it was Werner Herzog:

I couldn't find a poster for the film, but as you may be able to suss out from the photograph, this was a film about a very cold place. It's called "Encounters at the End of the World" and it's a sort of travel journal/nature documentary about Herzog's trip to Antarctica. There are a few penguins in the film, but it's not your typical nature doc. Herzog definitely shows some gorgeous sites - this really is meant to be seen on the big screen, especially if you like snow and ice. But he also concentrates on the people living in Antarctica. As you can imagine, it takes a certain type of person to choose to live "at the end of the world", and the people we meet in the film are quirky. Herzog narrates and he's got a very dry sense of humor.

I only watched one film in the Best of the Fest:

This was another film I couldn't find a poster for. It's called "Witnesses to a Secret War." It's about the U.S.' clandestine war in Laos during the Vietnam War. The U.S. recruited the Hmong people in Laos to fight against the Communist troops in North Vietnam. When North Vietnam and Laos fell to the Communists, the U.S. abandoned almost all of the Hmong who were no longer safe in Laos. Most of the Hmong went to refugee camps in Thailand and many have settled here in the U.S. We have a huge population of Hmong in St. Paul and the film also profiles Hmong refugees - both those who came to St. Paul in the 70s and those who were still in Thailand when the film began. It's a really interesting look at the immigrant experience and a good lesson about how we treat the "freedom fighters" we recruit abroad. The film will be returning to Oak Street next month and will also be shown on PBS some time next year.

I also had a chance to see a sneak preview of an upcoming film:

This is a Merchant-Ivory film and whatever thoughts spring to your mind when you hear that label, probably apply to this film. It's a big, lush, beautiful period drama. It's the story of a young man, T.K., in India in the 1930s who is working for a wealthy English businessman. T.K. comes from a very traditional Indian family, but was educated in English schools, so he's sort of a part of both worlds. His boss is having an affair with his Indian housekeeper, even though both are already married. I probably don't have to tell you that kind of thing didn't go over very well in India in the 1930s and T.K. has to figure out where his loyalties lie and what he's willing to do when the relationship is exposed. The film is really well made and quite lovely, but it left me a little cold. I just didn't feel any emotional connection to the characters or the type of urgency that I think I should have.


Sunday, May 11, 2008


I know even among the movie watching group, there aren't that many who love documentaries, so I'll try to keep this short. But I find that those who do love them, like to hear if something is good and this is always a good place for me to find info about something I've seen in the past. This year's M-SPIFF had a lot of documentaries and I found some that I really enjoyed.

Lynch is probably the least widely appealing of the films I saw. It's a documentary about the film director David Lynch. If you're not familiar with his work, he loves to take beautiful images and idyllic situations and then show how under the surface everything is rotten. He also is quite a surrealist, putting unexpected images and characters into his films. I'm a huge Lynch fan, so I enjoyed seeing how his twisted mind works in this movie. It was mostly filmed while he was working on his last movie, Inland Empire, so you got to see a lot of interviews about what he was thinking about and see how he meticulously sculpted some of the sets and directed actors, etc. in creating the film. I think this film is probably reserved for those who are fellow Lynchphiles or perhaps people who are just really interested in seeing an artist's creative process.

I guess this one may have limited appeal also, but it shouldn't. I'm not a huge rap fan and I only know a handful of Public Enemy songs, but I do know that they've been hugely influential, so I wanted to find out more. If you are a big fan of the group, I'm not sure how much new information is revealed in the film, but for me, it was really fascinating. The heart and soul of PE is Chuck D, who is revealed as a really thoughtful, borderline genius of the industry. The way he combines a pointed political message with a party atmosphere on stage is just brilliant. Flavor Flav is clearly crazy, but Chuck D is smart enough to know how important he is to the success of the band. Professor Griff and The S1W are less known in the mainstream, I think, but add a gravitas to the band. The film contains a lot of concert footage that I think is probably appealing to the fans, even if they already know the full story of PE. There are also a lot of interviews with other artists who have been influenced by PE such as Henry Rollins and the Beastie Boys.

A film I think everyone should see is "American Teen". LOVE that poster (if you're not as ancient as I am, it's a take off on the Breakfast Club poster). It follows the story of 4 teenagers in an small Indiana town as they go through their senior year of high school. At first you think they really are just like the characters in Breakfast Club - the rich, popular girl, the slightly off-beat girl, the high school jock and the geeky misfit. But just like in Breakfast Club, you find out people don't fit in neat little boxes. Things aren't easy for anyone when they're 17 years old, facing decisions about the future, trying to fit in, figuring out who you really are. I was completely fascinated with them all and at times loved each one and at times wanted to shake each one because they were being so stupid. It was just endlessly entertaining - funny and sad in parts.

Up the Yangtze was also a really engaging film focusing on some teenage subjects. This time it is two Chinese teenagers working on a cruise ship on the Yangtze River. The Three Gorges Dam is flooding out vast expanses of land on the banks of the Yangtze River. So rich Americans and Europeans have been taking cruises up the river to see the area before it disappears. The film follows two teens who work on one of these cruises - one a boy from a comfortable family. He's an only child and a boy, one of the generation that their boss on the ship talks about as being totally pampered and spoiled by their parents and families. The other is a girl from a poor family who is losing their home due to the dam. They live in a small shack and farm a piece of land on the banks of the Yangtze. They don't have enough money to send their daughter to high school, so she reluctantly takes a job on the cruise. The film does a great job combining these personal stories with the bigger story of China's turn toward capitalism and how the economic progres and success of some in the country comes at the expense of those less fortunate.


Monday, May 05, 2008

More Foreign Films

Just so I don't lost all my knitting readers, I'll start with the knitting. I have been knitting a little bit in between films. Here's most of what I've been working on:

I'm in Knitters for Obama on Ravelry and we've been knitting up preemie hats and baby bibs to send out to the states before their primary/caucuses to generate some good publicity and good feelings. Here's one story about it.

I also finished up the Lucy Neatby bracelet I started in class at Yarnover:

I haven't sewn on a button because it's way too small for my wrist. She has instructions for how to lengthen the bracelet at the end of the pattern but since I didn't read through the whole thing before I started knitting that was just a little too late for me. When I realized I was getting ready to finish it up and it was going to be too small, I decided I didn't want to rip back and try to make it longer, so I'm contemplating either giving it to my niece or just making it into a keychain instead.

OK, that's about it for knitting. Back to the movies. In the foreign film category but not nominated for an Academy Award I saw an Irish movie called "Kings":

Kings is the first major bilingual (it's mostly in Irish Gaelic, but there are some scenes in English) Irish film. It's about six men who emigrated from Derry to London in the late 70s as young men, full of dreams of success. It's 30 years later now and one of them has died, so they rest come together for the funeral and wake. Most of the men haven't found the success they dreamed of - only Joe, played by Colm Meaney, who runs a successful real estate business. All of the men are alcoholics (although Joe also indulges in cocaine) and struggling with their own guilt over their friend's death and facing the thoughts that come when you think about your own mortality. The film is based on a play and the bulk of the film takes place in a bar room and feels very stagey. They are able to show flashbacks to the young men and the days leading up to their friend's death, though. I really connected with the characters and the feelings of isolation, loneliness and disappointment. I recognize those men. I thought this was a really good companion piece to "Tiger's Tail" also. The economy is going great guns in Ireland, but these guys left before that happened and now are absolutely destitute, living in ramshackle homes. The acting was really great, but I wish I spoke Irish so I could have fully understood it without having to read the subtitles.

The next film I saw was Boarding Gate and I think your reaction to this film depends on your feelings about its star, Asia Argento. I saw her once described as an indie film version of Angelina Jolie and I think that's a perfect description. She absolutely exudes sensuality. I though it was ok. It's a sort of thriller. Argento plays an ex-prostitute who had a very destructive relationship with a successful businessman played by Michael Madsen. The plot is pretty convoluted and not very realistic. But it's gorgeously shot and beautiful to look at. If you're an Argento fan, it's a must see.

Myrin (Jar City to American audiences) is another thriller, this one from Iceland. Jar City is a more straight forward, traditional thriller and I really enjoyed it. I've only been to Iceland once, but I thought the film captured the dark and depressed nature of Reykjavik really well. The people I met there were beautiful and very kind, but everyone seemed very down and depressed - I think that has something to do with how short the days are during the winter. But I came away from the film the same way I came away from my trip - wanting to spend more time there and sort of drawn to it. The film is about a police detective investigating the murder of a man in his apartment. The investigation leads to more crimes, some that happened years ago. It also explores the detective's relationship with his daughter, a drug addict living on the streets. I was really caught up in the story and enjoyed following it through its twists and curves. This is a film for those who enjoy smart, dark thrillers.

OK, enough for now. Next time, documentaries.

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