Sunday, May 22, 2016

New old patterns

Last night I went to the Distillery District to see a play at Soulpepper Theatre. We saw the Odd Couple, which was quite fun, but my modern, sympathetic daughter did not enjoy the fact that most of the humour was actually kind of mean. Why are they laughing at Felix? Indeed.

Fun fact #1: One of the actors was Derek Boyes, who was a couple of years ahead of me at my high school! Cool. Great to see that he is a nice guy, as well as someone I sorta knew.

Fun fact #2: There is a shop across the way from the theatre, where, if you get to the theatre too early, you can browse through "vintage" and "retro" and various bath oils... I dunno. Anyways, I found the box that said, "Knitting patterns, 10 for $10."

In no particular order, then...
These two are from a Disco-era Pinguin magazine. Many novelty yarns in one sweater, and you can even find a model with a cigarette!

Fabulous fashions! No date, but I'm guessing early 60s. Each pattern can be made in any of three yarns, and they give the different stitch counts, but to change sizes, it looks like you just change needle size and gauge. No wonder if people had trouble getting their garment to look like the picture!

Can't get much more fashion fun than a crocheted jumpsuit, can you? 

This book is a gem of 1960s delights. Much crazy crocheting, but also a knitted skirt and jacket set that is not bad. The jumpsuit, though, is the best. 

This is an "all-purpose cardigan" from Monarch. This pattern book cost 25¢ originally, and is dated 1946. If only people in 1946 came in larger sizes. Really, was everyone a 36" bust then?

This is from a Spinnerin booklet from 1960. Very nice -- I love those big collars, but might find it a bit hot to wear. 

More Spinnerin from 1966. Très chic chapeau, here. I think Elaine needs this whole outfit. 

These are from the same book. The red coat is super, and the pattern says you can just use the knitted pieces as a pattern and make yourself a lining. "Assemble lining, making 1/2 inch seams." Those were the days. 

Last but not least, three little pamphlets. The raglan jacket, again with the big collar, is my favourite. One day I will make the pheasant sweater, maybe! 

I think I had other things to say, but these put all other thoughts out of my mind. I'll remember another day...

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Maybe it's spring

A lovely fluffy dandelion head. The city has stopped putting weed-killer on public land, so there are dandelions all over the parks and roadsides. An improvement all around, I think.

I am knitting a cotton shawl. I imagine using it this summer in the mountains and on the beach, but my design has changed drastically since I began.

It started out a simple triangle, getting one stitch wider every row. Here it is with my giant witchy shawl. It needs to get a lot bigger to really wrap around me! But, my needle is full of stitches and the rows are getting really long (it seems) and maybe I should do something else now.

So I found this pattern, called Peruvian Lace, on my 2010 Vogue Knitting calendar, and will make the pointy bit the end of a long wrap, this straight striped bit the middle, and some other pointy bit on the other end.

This will take forever, I think. It is a 10 row pattern, and 6 of those rows are plain knitting, but the big knotty loops are very time-consuming. 

You knit a row making double loops on each stitch (I shake my head, recalling I chose to do this because I couldn't fit more stitches on my needle...) then on the next row, you take the stitches 4 at a time, drop the extra loops, and do K1, P1, K1, P1 in each group of 4 stitches. I think it is somewhat unusual and exotic and unique, but it's a pain sliding all those double stitches on to the point of the circular needle. (Whine, whine about nothing....)

Must crack on, so as to have this done before I go to said mountains and beaches!

Monday, May 09, 2016

The last three movies

I'm so tired. I got up this morning, knowing it was Monday and the festival is over, and then was surprised when Elaine got up to go to school. Isn't this a day of rest for all of us? Apparently not.

The queen of the volunteers wearing the fingerless mitts

I decided at the last minute to work an additional shift Sunday night because a lot of venues were short-staffed. (There must be a way to get volunteers to stick around to the bitter end, but this year there were lots of unfilled slots in the schedule in the last days of the fest.) We got new ticket scanning software this year and the volunteers who wielded the wands got double rewards -- we get a voucher to see a movie, at the festival or year-round at the Bloor cinema. I had volunteered at the training session for the scanners, taking attendance, and had sort of fiddled around with the system, so when my venue last night was short a scanner, I offered to give it a try.  Zap, zap, zap, no problemo. So, I got four vouchers (it was a long shift!), got to see a movie and got to see the packing up of the box office, the recycling of the extra screening schedules and the taking down of the last posters. Closure of sorts.

My shift covered two movies, and each was preceded by a short. I couldn't get in in time to see the shorts, since I was scanning tickets, even of late-comers, and we had other chores to do, but I did get a chance to see one movie last night, Random Acts of Legacy. It is the story of a Chinese-American family as told by found 16mm home movies. These reels of film came up for auction, and luckily they had the photographer's name, Silas Fung, on them so we have a starting place to find out more. Our modern filmmaker found family members who could identify people, tell us who those white people were at the party, why the mom went to Banff with a bunch of people in 1940 or so, what's up with the Chicago World's Fair.... Also it was really interesting to see what happens to film, even well taken-care-of film, over time! You can digitize the images, but you sometimes end up with digitized damage.

One of the things I like about documentaries is seeing these ordinary people becoming part of the historical record. Everyone has something interesting in their lives, even if we think we are just trudging along.

That can segue neatly into Friday night's movie, Obit. There is a crew of probably fewer than a dozen people at the New York Times who write obituaries of the newsworthy and notable when they pass on. (Though they don't say "pass on." To get in the NYT obits, you "die.") The film shows the day-to-day fact gathering and deadlines, but also tells us about the writers: how they decide who gets in, how they think about living and dying.

My little alphabetical-order-loving heart fluttered at the sight of the morgue, which in this context is where they keep not dead people, but old files and clippings and bits of information. They used to have up to 30 staff in the morgue, but now there is one man, who can't possibly keep track of everything. I think one could make a whole movie about him.

The writing staff try to have "advances," kind of pre-written obituaries, for the big names, but sometimes their planning is a bit off. They wrote up an advance for a teenager who was an aviatrix in the 30s, figuring she'd go down in a fiery crash, but she lived another 80 years.


Sunday morning Elaine and I went to see Suited. I was a teeny bit disappointed that there wasn't more nuts-and-bolts talk about the cutting and the sewing, but the stories told here were pretty wonderful. Someone went to a tailor and got a suit made, and then told all their friends.... The tailor didn't balk at making a fashionable, well-fitting suit for a trans man, and soon filled a niche with needed services. There was a law student who wanted to look good, to match their good grades -- I think even wearing the suit he once got told he was perfect for the job but the firm couldn't handle "the trans thing." There was a couple getting married, a kid preparing for a bar mitzvah, a trans woman who was about to present a case before a high court... all people who want wear clothes that fit their bodies and their lives.

Suited was showing with a short film called Handsome & Majestic, a story about a kid in Prince George BC, of all places. Trans boy in small town gets bullied... His family is supportive, although the dad seems to have taken a while to get used to the idea, but we heard at the chat afterwards that Milan, the kid, has had to leave school. Apparently Telus funds the making of short films about towns across BC, and the filmmakers were just lucky that when they hit Prince George they found this interesting story. Happy, sad, infuriating, but certainly interesting.

Will take some deep breaths and get back to normal. Arthur still pondering the blue hair issue.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Day 8 of 11

I saw one movie yesterday, called Bobby Sands: 66 Days.

People my age all know the basic story, and if it was confusing in our 20s, I'd say it is no less confusing now. So much depends on the words used to describe the two sides. If they were presented, as they often were in the mainstream media, as Catholics fighting Protestants, that's stupid, just stop. If they are called Irish Republicans just wanting to live in their home, against the oppressive, imperialist English who wanted it for themselves, then they get more sympathy. The movie tells us the IRA killed thousands of people over the years, including many civilians, but the men's complete devotion to their cause is admirable. Sands and others were objecting to the fact that the law had changed and they were no longer treated as political prisoners, but as criminals.

At the beginning of the movie, crew are shown building a set, a prison cell. The actors in this cell don't say anything, but provide a visual for some things we just don't have pictures of. There are a lot of interviews with historians, other ex-IRA members, other prisoners, men who played football with Sands in their childhood... Interesting movie about the man and the times.

One wonderful thing about seeing a movie at a festival is usually the Q&A sessions after the films. The director and producer were present last night. The Q&A started out something like this:

"Is your film editor related to So-and-So?"

Then someone noted the absence of women's voices in the movie. The director defended himself well enough (significant women didn't talk to him; there were images in the movie of women's groups marching and participating; he didn't want a token woman) but the questioner wanted to keep on arguing. He shut her down and moved on to another question... which started, "I went to Ireland once..." blah blah blah, no question, just reflections on what he had seen, on and on.

They managed to shut him up, and on to the next question, "What advice do you have for us in Canada with aboriginal children in distress and committing suicide, blah blah on and on." "I have no qualifications to talk about that!"

Next question, "Who were Bobby Sands's influences in this business, could it be Gandhi, Mandela, who did this in prison and that in prison, blah blah on and on?" "I think I covered that in the movie...."

The poor staff member who was meant to be running this was trying to get some on-point conversation going, but the audience was apparently full of people with their own agendas who didn't really want to talk about the movie. I left after the Mandela question, but I don't think they had time for much more.

In other news, Arthur made it home successfully, and is talking about dyeing his hair blue.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

I am the Blues

Today's movie at the Hot Docs film festival was I Am the Blues. After the Holocaust and crazy tickling and flag-waving, I figured this would be a bit more straightforward.

Pre-movie knitting and coffee

And it was: a simple documentation of blues musicians in Mississippi and other places in the American south. Octogenarians playing the blues... doesn't get much better than that.

Of course, their stories are intriguing and the music is great and the community seems supportive and friendly and all-round wonderful, and there were pictures of the Mississippi and surrounding landscape. It was entirely engrossing. People in the movie audience applauded when musicians performed on the screen!

And then... Daniel Cross, the director, and Bobby Rush (82 years old, has made over 200 records, I'd never heard of him) came onstage for a Q&A and a song. Wow.

bad camera-phone picture

Torontonians: it's coming to the Bloor Cinema in June! See it. They also have a website with extra footage and more.

Just because we are finally noticing that spring has sprung, I will show you a magnolia spotted on my dash out to the grocery store -- I had to buy a fatted chicken to feed to my returning son! More on that tomorrow, perhaps!

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Three more movies

Since we last spoke, I have seen three movies. Let's see if I can remember what they were.

Sunday afternoon was The Last Laugh. This might have been the best so far. Mel Brooks, Rob Reiner, Sarah Silverman, Robert Clary (who was in Buchenwald and acted in Hogan's Heroes) and others talk about the difference between a Nazi joke and a Holocaust joke (and then there's plain old Jewish jokes).

Mel Brooks said he could certainly do Nazi jokes (he wrote The Producers) but he wouldn't touch a Holocaust joke... although he laughed at some! Lots of talk with comedians and Holocaust survivors, including Renee Firestone, about what humour can do. Really interesting as well as funny.

That evening I went to see Gary Numan: Android in La La Land. Really, the last time I paid attention to Gary Numan must have been about 1982. We all loved -- and then got sick of -- Cars, and then that was it. But he continued to do things after that: making and losing money, finding the perfect wife, dealing with crippling anxiety, starting to make successful albums again.

Yesterday's movie was one I'd been really looking forward to, Contemporary Color. David Byrne was involved and, I mean, if David Byrne likes it, it must be good, right? I'm not sure what I was expecting, but what we got was a concert film, more or less. High school colour guard teams evolved from baton twirlers and military parades and half-time shows and probably other things! They toss (fake) rifles in the air, they toss flags in the air, they do sort of gymnastics and sort of ballet and sort of synchronized swimming on land. David Byrne decided this was a great thing and arranged a show with live music and ten teams performing. We get a bit of backstage chatter, a few interviews with excited kids... all a bit weird.

Today, no movies! Back into action tomorrow -- and Arthur should be coming home tomorrow as well! Much excitement.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Slippers and Ticklers

Another day of movie-watching under my belt. Yesterday afternoon I saw The Slippers and the short Bootwmn.

Bootwmn deals with "cowboy" boots made by a lesbian bootmaker. I think the best thing I can do is show you the trailer.

It was very good. It's hard for shorts to get seen by big audiences, and they are often wonderful.

The main feature was about the most famous slippers around, Judy Garland's ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz. Wow, what a crazy story...

The first auction of the shoes sort of started the business of Hollywood memorabilia collecting, and of course we speak to some of the main players in that community. The man who rescued/stole costumes when the studios were wanting to get rid of things is the "hero," although he died many years ago. There's a bit of a villain, too. And humour, betrayal, great riches, Debbie Reynolds, the Smithsonian, theme parks, mysterious theft, mining pits... (Fun collecting fact: The dress Marilyn Monroe is wearing when she stands over the subway vent once sold for $5-million.) Highly recommended.

I had a few hours to kill before the evening movie, so I met Stephen for dinner and a beer, and then we were off to line up for Tickled. All the buzz has been like this: "See it; we can't say anything more; it's wild." So we knew very little about what we would see in the movie, and I suppose I'd best continue the say-nothing reportage. It really was astounding. There is tickling involved, to be sure. A reporter wants to write something about competitive endurance ticking, and gets sucked into a 2-year project... and we see it all in this movie. Super-highly recommended.

Today, the Holocaust and Gary Numan.