Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Knit PH at the BMA: August 23, 2008

Marci told us that on her way back from the restroom the guard commented that our knitting circle was knitting in a circle — around a tree. It did look as though we were coaching a tree on the finer points of yarn craft. Lisa, Hibba, and Tracey arrived shortly. The sculpture garden at the Brooklyn Museum is one of my favorite places to knit. It's so quiet and there's always a cool breeze. One would never guess that Eastern Parkway was on the other side of the building.

Marci's winter jacket is in progress, she's almost done.  She completed this beautiful Swiss Cheese scarf crocheted with Noro Silk Garden. The texture reminds me of seaweed or drift wood. She's almost finished with her crochet shawl collar wrap jacket. Eliza and her husband spent some time up in Maine while their floors were being re-sanded. This gave her time to catch up on her dyeing. I love the color of her super-wash roving, she used the local goldenrod. I'm amazed this north eastern weed associated with allergies can yeild a soft sweet-butter color. This will eventually be spun into yarn.

Lisa was almost done with her tank top. I think this is a Nora Gaughan pattern. She used Berroco "Seduce". Lisa ripped out the collar a few times to get the right turn on the edge — body #7, collar and edges #5. She took a break from hosting the August "Knit in the Park". I suppose we can meet outdoors until the season grows too cold and dark. Lisa and I are the smokers in the group. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's all bad. Smoke. Knit. Purl. Smoke. Blah blah blah.

But Tomo has quit smoking for over two weeks now. I think it's great that she has. On a more colorful note, Tomo is now teaching a seminar at ETSY Labs this Sepetmber here in Brooklyn: Dyeing with Kool-aid. Her dye work is simply gorgeous, with a masterful skill that caustic childhood beverage yeilds a range of beautiful bold colors. So far turn out has been good. People are dyeing to know.

Tomo, Hibba, Lisa and Eliza are test knitting Mannik Monkey and Pax L. Possum for me. Lisa already caught some errors among the typos. I'm working on a "Last Supper" diorama with monkeys for when I launch the Yarn Monkey store. I thought about doing the "14 Stations of the Cross" (the 15th station is for Easter only), but chances are I'd probably get firebombed by some Christian fundamentalist weaver. Maybe "Washington Crossing the Delaware" is more agnostic... and fire-proof.

Across the courtyard, a crew was busy constructing a large platform for the Panarama, the first evening of the West Indian Parade. The parade marks our summer coming to an end. August has been the cooler month of summer, which is highly unusual. The drone of cicadas has almost ceased, completing their 3-week life cycle and the sun is setting a bit earlier. I'm glad Eliza and Lisa took Knit PH outdoors this summer. During the winter, we'll all look back on warm days, a cool breeze and good conversation.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Right Stuff?

The Mannik Monkey & Pax L. Possum pattern is available through PayPal and Ravelry. To Purchase click below.

Over the weekend I made two more stuffed knit toys as a variation on the Douche Bag doll pattern. This plush, pink creature is named Pax L. Possum, the anti-anxiety marsupial. Anti-anxiety medication is now a common thread in our American fiber, for adults and children alike. We certainly do live in anxious times — personally, politically, economically, globally. But I have no idea what it's like being on meds, I assume it's like having a great weight lifted from one's body for some people.

I actually have an illogical fear of becoming dependant on or addicted to... something.... which I guess makes this a non-specific phobia. Yet I've never been addicted to anything of note — hard drugs, pharmaceuticals, pot, booze, internet porn, gambling, TV... if only I'd ever get addicted to regular exercise. But I might need those extra 20 pounds if another war breaks out and the economy collapses. I owe this all to being a jaded art college student from the 80s.

Doesn't heroin sound so 80s? But as reported on the news it's a growing suburban epidemic. The closest thing I have to an addiction is a cigarette habit and penchant for buying more yarn just because it's on sale. Other phobias I have are a stark fear of electricity, being late, drowning, the sight of my own blood... these are all fairly "garden variety." I blame all these on Catholic school and nuns.

This green fuzzy guy is named Mannik Monkey, a perilous primate with a prehensile tail that you just can't shake. Meds and mania are steady companions. One friend describes his treatment as going "flat" but being able to think properly. So, Manic Monkey doesn't really go away, he just becomes reasonably annoying.

In the opinion of our pharmaceutical industry, addiction and phobia stem from imperfections in one's mind. They recommend a regime of chemical adjustments to the brain that may yield temporary relief from chronic symptoms. Who is looking for perfection? What is so wrong with being the spazzy-geeky kid? They make fine musicians and brilliant scientists. My father, may he rest peacefully, always said if he could wish anything for us kids, it would be that we would be just normal, healthy, and happy. In our modern age that might be asking too much.

Over the course of years, these chemical adjustments always need more adjustment. This might explain why a reasonable person might one day yell out something odd at a random barista, like "I just want half hot water and half coffee! Is that so hard? What is f******g wrong with you people!" We've all been in that coffee line. Brain chemistry is a weird, young science. I don't know if we should be playing with our gray matter so much, especially when it concerns children. Treatments start as young as the age of 9.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


“Define douche bag?” a friend asked me over a beer. I pointed to the table of loud amateur drunks sitting behind us. They seemed to have confused a bar with their parents’ living room. Maybe that's why they think 50¢ is a decent tip...

So what is a douche bag? In medical terms, a douche bag is a sack used to administer a stream of water into one’s body for hygienic purposes. As a derogatory term it reached popularity in the early 1970’s, but in the HBO miniseries “Deadwood,” bad guy Al Swearengen places its origin at around the 1890’s. Peter Griffin from the cartoon “Family Guy” describes a douche as a person with an unkempt appearance, body odor and an unwarranted sense of accomplishment... (Kevin Federline/Magic Mirror espisode).

Douche bags have grown to include a wider cast of characters and meaning. On the outside one might observe a subclass of hipster with a flat-affect grin, over-priced American Apparel ensembles, ironic secondhand T-shirts, antique glasses that lend an appearance of “smarts,” a socially dysphoric demeanor... but douche-baggery goes beyond appearance, it has become a lifestyle. To better describe those that I've encountered here in New York, I made these demonstrative dolls that are similar to the ones used in family court.

Ph D(ouche)
If Prospect Heights, Park Slope and Fort Greene were a Venn Diagram, a small intersecting area would be labeled "Over-burdened Sense of Accomplishment." Meet the Ph D(ouche) — highly educated yet overly medicated, they no idea how big a douche they are. Often frustrated with those who only hold a BA, they are prone to inaproppriate outbursts. I don't blame these smarties for what they've become. I blame their parents for sticking them on SSRI meds since before the age of puberty. One solution for some parents is to keep their medicated darlings schooled well into adulthood hoping that they learn to play better with others by graduation day... and possibly get a job in publishing. Privilege comes at a price — an average of 36 to 40K a year. But pound for pound, a Doctorate in Poetry is much cheaper than simply locking these darlings up in a Gifted & Talented care facility.

Gurl Interrupted
The word douche bag describes the male component of this urban subculture, the female component is a douche baggette. A common subset of douche baggette is the Gold Digger, a man-hunting coke-head companion who never quite completed a Phd., dropped out of law college after the first year, dabbled in real estate, spent a lot of time in therapy, went back for the Phd then missed the extension deadline again... it all makes great party conversation. It’s so hard to leave the nest when it provides a meal program and the strong possibility of marrying upwards.

A true social chameleon, the gold digger can blend among Southamptonites and common barflies alike — sporting flip-flops, swigging Caiparinas, grabbing at prospective mates like a tree frog reaching for a passing branch. Outside of a shower room or a tropical island, the flip-flop is a beach accessory that makes no sense in an urban setting. In actuality it's a store-bought symbol of humility for the gold digger. Look out guys! It's a trap! The truth is no one really wants to see those dirty dogs at the office or in a restaurant, especially when arriving 45 minutes to an hour late due to foot pain from walking over concrete pavement.

Then there’s that skinny smelly kid with the BVDs hanging out of the top of his 70 dollar jeans. 6'4", 85 lbs, his iPod weights more than he does, he lives on candy and Redbull. We’ve all seen the Boy-rexic intern as he arrives an hour and half late for work. Seriously, we all assume he’s wearing underwear, so he need not prove it to strangers. And what’s up with the super-toxic body odor? One has to work very hard to smell that bad, but none of these guys seem to be steadily employed or eager to work. Has good hygiene gone out of style?

The Fixies
As an avid cyclist, my friend Bill has often said that anyone in New York with a $2,000 fixed-gear bike who refuses to wear a helmet is an absolute douche bag. “Fixies,” a cycling subculture, have become the loath of people who actually use their bikes as transportation. The notion of wearing a cycling helmet and using breaks is too conformist for their taste, and it messes up their faux-hawks. But if one can afford that bike, they can certainly afford a legal team and the hospital bill.

Fixies have become two-wheeled harbingers of death for New York pedestrians and other cyclists. As they ride over sidewalks, they yell obscenities at people with baby carriages, slow-walkers, and tourists. So why do Fixies proclaim so much hate for the peds and New York tourists? Fact: no Fixie is actually from New York — yet they think a crap attitude makes them more of a New Yorker. Like migrating Lycra clads birds en route to some place else, they descend upon the city only to text the others and feed, then go back from whence they came.