Saturday, March 30, 2013

Bees are the New Black

          We visited my parents last week, because my dad decided he wanted to keep bees. K, who used to keep bees, said he'd act in a consulting capacity, which I imagined, in my innocence, to be telephone and email answers to Dad's questions. Next thing I knew, we had driven across Kansas,  zeroed in on a beekeeping supply store in Denver, and were purchasing a hive and all the gear, to go along with Dad's hive. Bees will be coming in May. I suspect commuter beekeeping will follow, even though 600 miles is a long way to drive to tend bees.

          I understand from my current-events reading that backyard beekeeping is now the latest thing, ever so much hipper and trendier than backyard chicken-keeping. It is to laugh that something which requires you to dress up like this:

is currently considered the sine qua non of hipsterosity. I didn't think hipsters had much tolerance for clothing that makes you look like a slightly more ridiculous version of the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man. And frankly, beekeeping has more an air of the elderly eccentric* than of the chic coffeehouse denizen.

          Physical labor is involved as well, which seems antithetical to hipsterism.

          But there you go. Bees. They're hip.

*And I do feel that my dad fits more firmly into this category—especially the "eccentric" part—than into the "chic coffeehouse denizen" category. He doesn't even like coffee.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds Admit Impediments

I support marriage equality because I want to live in a world with more love, not less.

I support marriage equality because one of the most loving marriages I know
is same-sex.

I support marriage equality because everyone who takes that leap of faith that is marriage deserves the legal and social benefits appertaining thereunto.

I support marriage equality because, frankly, the more wedding cake going around,
the better.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Portrait of My Father

I'm trapped!

          This is my dad. Sometimes he gets confused about how the hood part of a jacket works.

          And now Casey thinks he's Very Scary No-face Red Monster Thing. Although she indicates a certain willingness to make friends with him again if hot dogs are involved.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Marcel Proust Moment

          The other day I opened the bookcase to get a book, and the headiest perfume wafted out. I stuck my entire head into the case and inhaled.
          Equal parts aged paper and binding glue, this fragrance transported me immediately to my hometown library; specifically, to the children's section, where it always lingered in the stacks. It is, along with a certain book, one of my earliest (and fondest) literary memories.

The book that started my love affair with words. And pictures.

          This is the smell of magic. Of getting my library card and feeling all grown-up. Of the office in which our wonderful library director kept her collection of eraser dragons (because every library should be guarded by minuscule, gaudily-colored rubber dragons). Of the first book that bewitched me.

          The taste of madeleines and tea was all that it took for Marcel Proust to bang on for volumes about all the things he remembered from his childhood. I fear I am incapable of such a sustained effort; I get distracted far too easily by pretty shiny objects, dogs who need grooming, videos of cats playing in boxes, the history of the Phrygian cap, the mysterious and amazing fact that you can make a pretty sweet cello out of carbon fiber these days. Oh, and by going to the library. Where there are all these books.* About pretty shiny objects, dog grooming, making videos of your cat, the history of headgear, how to make your own musical instruments.

          If I did write a book about my childhood in a library, it would not run to multiple volumes. It would be one slim volume, and after the title page—Remembrance of Libraries Past—and the front matter, it would say, "Go the the library. Find a book. Read it. Repeat until your childhood is full of words and memories."

*I know there are CDs and DVDs and magazines and computers and as well. I always intend to investigate them. But I am always distracted by the books.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Averting Nuclear Threat Through Judicious Use of Caffeine

          I think I may know what's going on lately with that mysterious bundle of brinksmanship, nuclear threat, and starvation that is North Korea.

          K bought a new coffeemaker the other day. It makes lovely coffee. We've successfully had this lovely coffee exactly two days out of the four we've owned it.

          When coffee failed to materialize again this morning, K spoke a string of Very Bad Words that shocked even Casey (since she is the chief cause of Very Bad Words at our house, she has become accustomed to them, but these particular words were Very Bad Indeed).

It's complicated…

          A certain amount of careful prodding revealed that the flimsy plastic base the carafe sits on is the key to the correct operation of the entire coffee-making system. This base, in addition to looking expendable, is fiendishly difficult to attach correctly to the rest of the machine, and at the same time exceptionally easy to detach, leading to no coffee and Very Bad Words.

          So, a word of advice for the industrial designers who specialize in coffeemakers.

          Coffee is made in the bleary dark hours of what was just recently blackest night, by Insufficiently Caffeinated—and possibly Insufficiently Rested—Persons. Coffeemakers, therefore, need to be less difficult to operate than spoons. Flailing in the general direction of the coffeemaker should be all that is necessary to make it work correctly.  Coffeemakers that inexplicably require the fiddly correct placement of a cheap-looking plastic disk in order to perform their life-saving function of coffee delivery should make it very very easy indeed to place this disk correctly and almost impossible to unseat it.

          Otherwise, you'll end up with Insufficiently Caffeinated Dictators grumping around, refusing to answer their special red phones, threatening to attack their neighbors, and looking for the launch codes for the nuclear missiles.

          I think we should all chip in and get Kim Jong-un a nice new coffeemaker. One that's extremely easy to operate.

Saturday, March 9, 2013


          When I was researching images for the illustrations that accompany the WWSK post, I found a photo of a handsome old padlock. I didn't use it in the illustrations I made, but I liked it so much I dumped it into Photoshop and spent some happy time making it look like an old-time screenprint.

          I love the quick & dirty printmaking esthetic that's so beautifully represented in Hatch Show Print's publicity posters, and which thanks to Photoshop it's now possible to fake without having a print shop at your disposal. I've been doing work that is indebted to Hatch Show Print for years now, one here, one there, just because it pleases me. Here's the latest.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Vintage Clothing: Diabolical? or Simply Regrettable?

          I'm giving a shout-out today to my hairdressing goddess, Kassey, who originally directed me to this story while I was conducting a fruitless search for the fourth needle in a set of double-pointed knitting needles my grandfather made for my grandmother.

          It seems that, in addition to fiendish handknits, Satan has a weakness for vintage fashion. Or at least that's the conclusion I came to after viewing this video:

          Pat answers a question from a listener who buys a lot of her clothing at resale shops, like Goodwill. The listener's mother warned her there could be DEMONS!!!!!!!! in those fabulously retro high-waisted jeans, and advised her daughter to pray over the clothes,* bless them, and bind familiar spirits before bringing them into the house. The listener wants to know if demons really can attach themselves to material items.

          Now, in the interest of scrupulous fairness, Robertson does say that he doesn't believe every item of second-hand clothing is infested by demons and requires spiritual fumigation before being worn. BUT—also in the interest of scrupulous fairness—his reply doesn't commence, "Hahahahaha, listener. Your mom is such a kidder." No, instead his reply starts with an urban legend about a cursed ring** and goes on to say that demons live in inanimate objects***.

          An urban legend, dear readers. About a cursed ring—one of your standard folk and literary motifs. Robertson tells his listeners a story that has been told and retold in tales and stories over the ages, a story whose facts cannot be verified independently, and expects they will accept that as proof that DEMONS ARE EVERYWHERE!!!!!!!!!! GAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!! EVEN IN MY VINTAGE POLYESTER DISCO SHIRT!!!!!!!****

          Well, I am here to reassure you that the devil may be in the details, but he and his minions are not lurking in that classic mint-green leisure suit you got for 75 cents at the Salvation Army Thrift Store last week.

          No, they're still busy hiding Grandma's blankety-blank knitting needles.

*I used to do this regularly in high school, but not even prayer could turn my hideous fashion choices into what the cool kids were wearing. (In my defense, I was also handicapped by having to live in the 70s, a fashion disaster of a decade.)

**A cursed ring, as you will remember, is one of the Deathly Hallows in Harry Potter. A cursed ring also has a role in Lord of the Rings. Which are fictional works. Not that a Man of God would ever read Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. No sir! Because demons can infest words, too.

***Full disclosure: K just revealed that he has owned a couple of sweaters that he was sure were demon-possessed. Unfortunately they are long gone, and even if he still had them, we don't possess a Ouija board to call the demons out with, so there is no way to verify his claim. (Also: K has been known to pull my leg.)

****Actually, I could be convinced that there are demons lurking in disco shirts. But only the Lesser Imps of Bad Taste.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


          My grandmother was an extraordinary needlewoman. She knitted beautiful sweaters, vests, gloves, and mittens, often worked at gauges that most modern knitters would find far too fine. She did this while having to filter pattern directions not only through her bipolar disorder (where Satan lurked), but also through her knitting technique, which was not simply Continental style (most Americans knit English style, so she was usually out of luck when it came to seeking help with a knitting problem), but the more obscure Combined style*, which reverses decrease shapings and plays havoc with instructions that require you to knit through the front or back of a loop**.

          And it is because she was able to do such lovely work under difficult circumstances, I believe, that Satan spent so much of the time he could have profitably spent torturing sinners and fast-talking people out of their immortal souls instead hiding Grandma's knitting needles.

          Not to put too fine a point on it, but The Prince of Darkness was jealous of Grandma's knitting mojo.

          For Satan knits. And he occasionally publishes patterns, as every knitter can attest. There are knitting patterns that exist on a level of fiendishness almost impervious to the abilities of even the most skilled knitter. And they are signed with Satan's sigil.

          Here is a selection:

Hostile Helmet—headache guaranteed.

Prohibited Pullover—impossible to get on;
equally impossible to get off

Swarming Scarf—only some of them are poisonous.

Vicious Vest—don't make any sudden moves.

          But Satan is not content with creating fringe from centipedes (which, even though it's undeniably creepy, I also have to admire for its sheer perverse cleverness) or dreaming up a pullover that padlocks itself to your body.

          No, what he really wants is to knit a nice argyle cardigan that will accomodate his wings, but he has never been able to get the gauge right. And colorwork has proven entirely beyond his abilities.

          Grandma would have been able to toss off an infernal, wing-accommodating cardigan without batting an eye. A brimstone-proof, machine-washable, completely reversible cardi that disguised the potbelly, flattered the fiery skin tone, and made the old fiend look taller.

          If only she could have found her knitting needles.

*Used in eastern Europe, and almost unknown here until quite recently.
**No knitting instructions that I'm aware of are written for Combined knitters. We are on our own.