Karie Bookish Dot Net

Category Archives: Popular Culture

Boom! Boom! Chaka! Chaka!

This is one of my favourite weeks of the year: the Eurovision Song Contest week. For my non-European readers, imagine American Idol with 45 different countries competing. Then add xenophobia, bad blood, neighbourly love, dubious ethnic costumes, weird instruments, and mangled lyrics. The combination is oddly compelling.

The first semi-finale took place yesterday with the second one happening tomorrow and the finale is on Saturday. Here are some selected highlights:

(* I have heaps of ideas of who to represent the UK at the ESC. Alexandra Burke, Little Boots and The Saturdays would be fabulous if completely unlikely competitors.)

Just to finish off, some of my recent ESC favourites: Turkey 2008Bosnia & Herzegovia 2008 (which included knitting ladies!), Romania 2006 and France 2007. For sheer WTF-ness, try Azerbaijan 2008. For cuddliness, try Norway 2009 (which won).

And Sweden 1983 which spawned a life-long Eurovision love.

Shiny Special One

Happy birthday, dear Darth Ken. The Buffy to my Xander. The Rosenkrantz to my Guildenstern.  The Han Solo to my Chewbacca. The Kirk to my Scotty. My most frequent blog commentator.

(Somewhere in my vault, I have a photo of Darth Ken wearing crushed velvet and a Plaster of Paris grotesque half-mask . In the same photo I am wearing black sparkly lipstick, a bodice constructed out of a pair of leggings and a velvet skirt. Man, the mid-90s were really scary. That photo will never see the light of day).

On the Kitchen Table & Beyond

AprilHow much, do I love Sirri 1ply? It’s uneven, slightly overspun and reeks to high heaven of sheep. It’s absolutely fantastic. Oh, I LOVE it.

I pulled out my hibernating Aestlight shawl last night. I started it over the Christmas holidays last year and it was promptly put into hibernation on Boxing Day. I now remember why: I find all the garterstitch deadly dull. I now have to decide whether to pull out all that garterstitch or find some inner backbone to get those last twenty rows done before I pick up stit… aghr, I think I’ll just call it a day.

The Kidsilk Haze in Jelly was just sitting randomly on our kitchen table. I really like those two colours and textures together. Hmmm..

BookAlso on the kitchen table: my needle book made by Chookiebirdie, aka Lorna Reid. This little book has kept me company for a few years now.

I have visited Lorna’s studio many times (she is just a few doors down from my very good friend, Ms Old Maiden Aunt) and eventually decided that I would love her to make me a small needle book. I did not give Lorna many guidelines – just that I loved moss green. Lorna promptly delivered this lovely needle book: moss green and aqua and orange and an owl. Everything is so beautifully finished.

ContrastI spot something in the background too. I wonder what that could be? I’ll hopefully get you a proper shot of that “mystery object” later this week if the notoriously fickle April weather complies. For now, let’s just say I cast off last night and I’m ever so slightly oh my word.

A few links for you:

  • The Art of Fashion. Exactly what it says on the tin. I could happily read an entire book on this topic.
  • Most Underappreciated Films of the Last Decade: a nice run-down which provides inspiration for our DVD nights.
  • Hugh Grant(!) – yes, that Hugh Grant(!!) – steps right into the fray with an excellent article about British politics, British media, Rupert Murdoch, whistle-blowing, and phone-tapping. A must-read if you have the slightest inkling what I’m on about. Hugh, I loved you in Maurice (especially with your moustache-of-repression) and forgive you for everything you’ve done since.
  • This little girl knows her Star Wars (YouTube link) I especially like her bow and the Storm-Trooper’s fist-pump. Made me grin like an idiot.
  • And speaking of videos and me grinning like an idiot, let me recommend When Harry Met Sally 2. Does the very thought strike fear into your heart? You should be first in line to watch this.
  • The Dumbing Down Of Quilting. Also, take time to read the comments. The arrogance displayed by some of the people (including the blogger) is astounding. My jaw hit the floor, so it did*

(* does anyone know if the “so it did” emphatic subclause in a declarative sentence is particularly Glaswegian?)

Day Five: Song

august09 014Hello FLS, my old friend,
I’ve come to knit you again,
Because pretty yarn came softly creeping,
And I can knit you while sleeping,
And the shawl that was frogged yesterday
Still remains
Within the knitting basket of doom.

In restless dreams I walked alone
Wondered if I should knit Cobblestone,
‘neath the halo of a second-hand lamp,
I turned my eyes to the weather cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of
bright light
That split the night
And touched the knitting basket of doom.

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand possible projects, maybe more.
Projects without assigned yarns,
Projects with scary-looking charts,
Projects that look fabulous – but not on me
And not one made me
Disturb the knitting basket of doom.

Head said you do know
Your yarn stash like a cancer grows.
Find some sweater amount for Hey Teach*,
Take these patterns and an FO this month you may reach.
But my hands like idle raindrops fell,
And rested
By the knitting basket of doom.

And so to the great knitting goddess I prayed
I looked at items I had previously made.
And the signs were flashing,
By the sweater amounts I had been stashing.
And the signs said, top-down it shall be
It’ll be easy garter-stitch and fancy-free
And suit that lovely wool-alpaca yarn you
have kept in the knitting basket of doom..

(apologies to Simon and Garfunkel)

*no longer in my queue as per April 2011

Alas, I have suddenly fallen ill and I am currently resting in my bed. I hope you enjoy this little filk which I originally wrote in August 2009. I have updated the links though :)

I hope to be fully recovered in time for tomorrow’s blog post. Until then you can find more blogs participating in the Knitting & Crochet Blog Week by googling 2KCBWDAY5.

Just Knitting

March 2011 204Sometimes I get so very tired of knitting.

No, I do not tire of knitting – that simple enjoyable activity that involves a ball of string and two pointy sticks – but I do tire of certain aspects involved in knitting.

I tire of the one-upmanship I see in the knitting community. That you need to be knitting the latest viral pattern craze in precious hand-spun unicorn yarn from a small island off the coast of Chile to be a cool knitter. Or that coolness equates you knitting crazy Estonian lace at knitting group whilst shrugging off its difficulty with a modest “oh, it’s straightforward, really” and frantically counting in your head. I’m currently that last knitter (although my stitch pattern is straightforward, honestly) and I’m even knitting my crazy Estonian lace in an expensive designer yarn. Where is this one-upmanship coming from?

I tire of the idea of “a knitting community” too.

I was recently contacted by another knitter who asked me to share a copyrighted pattern “to support our knitting community”. Really? Just because I knit, I am not automatically your new best friend. We share a common interest but I am not just a knitter. My identity has so many other markers that I do not feel automatic kinship with anyone who knits.

Besides, the very idea of a “community” is ridiculous when I see these self-confessed ‘yarn snobs’ and ‘knitteristas’ roll their eyes at seeing someone knitting a baby jacket on straight needles using cheap mass-market yarn. Isn’t “the knitting community” just another way of saying “exclusive club”?

So, honestly, I needed something to cleanse my palate. I wanted to be reminded why I love knitting so much.

March 2011 210 I took my inspiration from the recent Rowan magazine – it is actually turning into one of my favourite resources together with Knit1 Fall/Winter 2008 – and specifically Kaffe Fassett’s Unwind Wrap. I looked in my stash, uncovered some yarns that went well together and I sat down to knit. I had no plan, no pattern, and I just used up some spare balls from the stash. No fuss, all freedom.

It felt great. I felt great.

I’m going to weave in my gazillion ends now and then get my partner to shoot a few photos of me wearing my newest project – but I’m not going to make out that it is the most exclusive, most amazing, or super-difficult project ever. Knitting it made me feel good and wearing it (despite the many loose ends) makes me feel good.

But at the end it is just knitting, you know?

Is ‘Sixthly’ Even A Word?

First of all, congratulations to Ms Old Maiden Aunt whose yarn was just featured in the new Winter edition of Knitty. I particularly like how the Knitty people have made a lovely page banner out of a close-up of Lilith’s yarn. The yarn was used for Palisander, a beautiful scarf by Denmark’s own Signest (congratulations to you too, obviously!). Man, this knitting world is really freaking small at times..

Secondly (and just to prove my point), there is a photo of yours truly, Ms Celtic Stitcher, and SoCherry in the February edition of UK knitting magazine, Let’s Knit. We were just knitting away at The Life Craft‘s knitting night and somehow a photo made it into a magazine. In all honesty, I am only an occasional guest at The Life Craft’s knitting nights for one reason or another, but I am a huge fan of the shop and have enjoyed their hospitality on many (camera-less) occasions. It’s great to see the gals (and guys!) of TLC getting national attention.

Thirdly, since Friday I have knitted 1 back, 1 sleeve and 1 front of my Purple Rain cardigan. You have to love 7mm needles and their Instant Gratification factor. I hope to have the cardigan finished by the end of the week which sounds bizarre to me after having spent five months knitting another cardigan (more on that one later). Seeing as my working week will be marked by a work-related train journey north, I should perhaps start planning my next big project..

Fourthly, I have already planned my next big project. In fact, I have planned my TWO big projects which will keep me occupied the next few weeks and then some. I recently bought some Rowan Silky Tweed in a delicious mustard yellow and my skeins are destined for the Acer cardigan by Amy Christopher (rav link). I have admired that cardigan for a long time and as the yarn is a light aranweight with excellent stitch definition, I get the feeling it’ll be a match made in knitting heaven. My other planned project is Fancy from the new Rowan magazine. The photo does not show it, but the jumper has a goddamn fabulous Estonian-lace-ish stitch pattern going for it. I’m helpless in the face of Estonian-lace-ish stitch patterns, so a Fancy in chartreuse green Kidsilk Haze will be on my needles soon. I first thought of making it in black but then decided I was clearly mad.

Fifthly, friends mentioned above have persuaded me to give my red alpaca cardigan some time in the knitting basket. Time to let me get over myself and my body image. It’s not the cardigan’s fault that I had a few too many mince pies at Christmas nor that I’m more Christina Hendricks than Nicole Kidman body-wise. The alpaca’ll probably wet-block really well too. Cough.We shall see.

Sixthly, speaking of celebs, I could not resist looking closely at the Red Carpet fashion at yesterday’s Golden Globes and I loved the 1930s cut of Angelina Jolie’s green dress. Very Old Hollywood and yet very current. Sigh.

Purple Rain, Purple Rain..

Purple Rain

First, an update on my lovely Lumley cardigan. It turned out to be too small across my bust & midriff. I blame Christmas cookies, my mother’s genetics, and also a pattern which – according to Rav knitters – runs very small. It’s in time-out before I muster the energy to pull out the two fronts and re-knit them. My partner had a genius idea about re-knitting the fronts, incidentally, and I might just use that idea..

But before I do that, I need a project to cleanse my palate.

Just a few days ago I succumbed to some Rowan Colourscape in the January clearance sales. The colour is “Purple Rain” and it is an otherwise unreleased shade that selected John Lewis stores across Britain were selling as one-offs. I bought 6 skeins with no clear idea in my head – I just loved the deep, deep purples which my camera has clearly failed to pick up.

And now I’ve cast on for a Sarah Hatton pattern. I sat knitting the cardigan whilst re-watching Hot Fuzz and I actually got halfway up the back in just one evening. Just what the knitting doctor ordered. Now I hope I’ve cast on for the right size – after the Lumley debacle I have grown a tad paranoid.

Some links:

  • A really good article from The Salon about why people love so-called “bad writing”. I’m a self-confessed ‘Stylemonger’ (read the article for description!) but I’m also unapologetic about my dips into genre reading. Well, unapologetic unless I read fourteen Georgette Heyers in less than two weeks.
  • Erica Jong on modern motherhood. The concept of that article might sound like something out of your worst nightmare but it makes some interesting points – even for this non-motherly person.
  • My cake decorating skills lie somewhere between “bad” and “wonky”. You can’t say the same about the people who made this astounding cake.
  • Five Emotions Invented by the Internet.
  • Born This Way (via MeFi): “A photo/essay project for gay viewers (male and female) to submit pictures from their childhood with snapshots that capture them, innocently, showing the beginnings of their innate gay selves. It’s nature, not nurture!Disclaimer: I read this blog not so much as reinforcing stereotypes (as some MeFi contributors argued) but rather “more about what you see in the mirror, once you know what to look for” as queer people look back at their younger selves. It’s about nostalgia, self-acceptance, lived lives, and identity.
  • And, then, Prince singing Purple Rain.

My Big Read

Every so often I come across a list of 100 books – the result of a BBC project called The Big Read in which the British public was asked about their favourite books. The list is being circulated as part of an ongoing internet meme asking people how many of these books they have read. You know, as though this list is an authoritative and complete list of the best and most important books. It is not. It is filled with recent best-sellers, pop culture phenomena and books people vaguely remember from school.

If you are searching for a good reading guide, please consider looking at these lists instead. Warning: these lists are purely aspirational and are filled with dead white men.

However, here is my personal list. It consists of 25 books not on the BBC list.  I consider these books the cornerstones of my reading life and I recommend all of them. One book per author. Feel free to share your own recommendations in the comments section.

  1. Tom Kristensen: Havoc
  2. T.S. Eliot: The Waste Land
  3. Walt Whitman: Leaves of Grass
  4. Virginia Woolf: A Room of One’s Own
  5. Sir Philip Sidney: Astrophel & Stella
  6. Gertrude Stein: Tender Buttons
  7. Hart Crane: The Bridge
  8. Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master & Margarita
  9. Jorge Luis Borges: Ficciones
  10. Vladimir Nabokov: Pale Fire
  11. Allen Curnow: Early Days Yet (esp. Landfall in Unknown Seas)
  12. John Cheever: Falconer
  13. Alexander Trocchi: Young Adam
  14. Primo Levi: The Periodic Table
  15. Alasdair Gray: Lanark
  16. Jeanette Winterson: Sexing the Cherry
  17. Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale
  18. Keri Hulme: the bone people
  19. Iain Banks: The Bridge
  20. Michel Faber: Under the Skin
  21. Andrew Crumey: Mobius Dick
  22. Jonathan Coe: The House of Sleep
  23. Jan Kjærstad: The Seducer
  24. Cormac McCarthy: The Road
  25. Erna Brodber: Myal

PS. If anybody looking at my list can figure out what to call or how define my taste in books, please let me know. I’ve tried to come up with a succinct description for years but the closest I have come is “I like small, nasty books”.


I have ten rows to go on my tenth shawl of 2010. The rows are getting very long now, so I’m taking a break – just long enough to make myself a cup of tea and to update my sadly neglected blog.

It has been a very long week. All my best intentions and all my best-laid plans flew out the window whilst I tried to hold on to my sanity and get through a mountain of work. I have been playing catch-up ever since returning from Denmark and I think I’m almost nearly there.

These things have helped me through the week:

My shawl beckons me (as does that cup of tea). Have a lovely weekend.


Two things:

  1. Susan Boyle has covered Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over”. On Oprah.
  2. Neil Finn and I are officially over.

Today was a bleak, rainy Friday, so my partner and I headed out to Mini-Sweden for some Scandi-style retail therapy (and quite successful we were too; I came away with supplies for a secret project of mine). We also helped ourselves to some pseudo-Scandinavian food and all was right with the world. I like Mini-Sweden. It’s clearly an expat-Scandi thing because I never used to be this enthused about heading there. Maybe it is just because I enjoy feeling smug about knowing what the product names mean..

Afterwards D and I swung by a nearby shopping centre to get a few Christmas presents sorted for our Danish family and friends. Whilst caught in retail hell, I decided to try on a few cardigans in preparation for future knitting projects. I’m that glad that I did – and I’m glad that I was yet to get the yarn for a certain crocheted shrug because the shape was really unflattering on me. I have an hourglass figure but cascading fronts + big collar = ‘sack of potatoes’ figure. D has a great eye for what I should wear (I’d hire him to be my personal stylist but he claims he doesn’t want the job) and he had me try on this top instead. Holy moly. I would never have thought I’d look anything but chunky and boxy in that sort of style.. but I looked sexy, stylish and seriously cool. That’s a first.

A few links for your perusal:
+ The first real teaser trailer for Attack of the Herbals. Watch out for the “German” priest – I know that guy!
+ Something nasty is happening in Malmo, Sweden. Sadly I had thought something like this would happen at some point but I had pegged Denmark as the spot. I’m also concerned that it has taken this long for the news to hit the headlines. Bad show, very bad show.
+ Don Paterson on Shakespeare’s sonnets. I’m not fully sold but I’m intrigued.
+ Grading the flags of the world. Hilarious stuff and also a bit educational.
+ The best of the web, fershure: The Ages of English. Super-fabulous look at the development of the English language. Interestingly I can sort-of understand the English spoken circa Viking Settlement. I also like the glimpses into Scots English.
+ Paulina Porizkova, 80s ‘supermodel’, on aging. Very much worth a read.