Warm Woollen Mittens

“Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens,
Brown paper packages tied up with string…”

I’ve just finished watching the ‘Musicals’ episode of Strictly Come Dancing and the lyrics to one of the songs prompted this post. (Yes, it was the one from The Sound of Music but that’s probably because I’ve still got a bit of a crush on Brendan Cole so it was a multifaceted guilty pleasure.)

Somewhat surprisingly, this is a post about knitting, specifically about knitting mittens (and fingerless mitts). Though I haven’t posted much recently, I have been knitting a lot. I’ve really enjoyed smaller projects like hats and mittens – partly because they’re quick to complete and partly because they’re technically quite challenging. Here are a couple of my latest efforts:

IMG_1925 IMG_1984

The pink ones are for me and were made with the beautiful yarn Dad bought for me in Canada. It’s probably a little too soft for mitts but even if the palms end up a little threadbare from bags and the pushchair handle, they’ve lovely to wear. The purple ones were requested by a friend of SiLs who offered to pay for the wool plus a little for my time. I briefly wondered if that was allowed as it’s not my own design but I don’t think it even counts as selling. (It’s certainly no Etsy shop and as I knit in short bursts in front of the TV, the hourly rate works out well below minimum wage so I’m not making enough of a profit to bother anyone!)

The issue did get me thinking about the rules for selling hand-knitted items based on somebody else’s designs. I imagine the basic pattern for a shawl, scarf, hat or mitten doesn’t belong to anyone and many of the fancier designs (even ones that you have to buy) are simply a generic cable or lace pattern added to the basic shape. There must be a point at which a pattern becomes specific enough for someone to be able to copyright it, but does that mean they have a claim on items made using the pattern or just the instructions themselves? A quick Google search suggests the law is different in the US and the UK, but what does that mean for a English knitter using an American pattern, or vice-versa? If anyone has a clear set of rules I’d be interested to know…

The Litmus Test: BtVS edition

You watched this scene through your tears...
You watched this scene through your tears…

You know you’re a true Buffy fan when:

  1. You’re a Spike girl, or an Angel girl (or even a Riley girl – the point is you’ve picked a side).
  2. You can’t work out why Buffy didn’t just slay that thing in The Grudge.
  3. You own the Tru Calling and Dollhouse box sets, just because Faith is in them.
  4. You use Angel to exemplify the Byronic hero. (Bonus points if you sulk when a student suggests that Batman is a better example.)
  5. You then set an essay on feminist rewritings of mythology, comparing Joss Whedon to Angela Carter.
  6. You know the words to all the songs in ‘Once More With Feeling’, even the parking ticket one.
  7. You’re still scared of the Gentlemen.
  8. You need to know the plural of apocolypse.
  9. You laugh at sparkly vampires and their submissive girlfriends.
  10. You almost wish Shakespeare had written “We band of buggered” in the St Crispin’s Day speech.

However, the real litmus test is whether or not you’re “bored now…”

No doubt this has been done before, but it’s my list and as it fits both the Daily Prompt from WordPress and Rarasaur’s prompt for this week, I couldn’t resist.

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Literary Schadenfreude

Episode 3 of Rarasaur’s Prompts for the Promptless challenges us to write about Schadenfreude, which basically means “pleasure derived from the misfortune of others”.

*Served him right...
*Served him right…
*Got what he deserved...
*Got what he deserved…

It’s a challenge because it’s an emotion that few us like to admit we feel; enjoying someone else’s bad luck or suffering just isn’t very nice. There are obvious exceptions – I can’t find a shred of sympathy for lonely old Robert Mugabe – and seeing a villain (real or fictional) get their comeuppance is very satisfying.

I’m also willing to admit that I’m always delighted when somebody else spills a drink or breaks a glass (even if it’s my drink or my glass). This is because I’m terribly clumsy so I’m always pleased that it wasn’t me!

On reflection, I realised that I experience Schadenfreude all the time, almost every day, through the act of reading. There’s what I’d describe as the ‘overt Schadenfreude’ when the baddie is killed / caught / punished but there’s also a more subtle form (‘covert Schadenfreude’?) that occurs as we enjoy reading about the protagonist’s trials and tribulations. The difference is best illustrated with an example, and my favourite novel illustrates both varieties perfectly.

*Not Mary Shelley's Frankenstein...
*Not Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein…

SPOILER WARNING: If you don’t know (and don’t want to know) what happens in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, skip the rest of this paragraph. As a result of creating his “hideous progeny”, Victor Frankenstein loses his little brother, father, wife, health and sanity. He whinges expresses his misery eloquently and at length, but all I can think is that it serves him right for playing God, neglecting those who love him and abandoning his creation. Many readers would disagree, and the author herself intended Victor as the hero of this novel, but I revel in the chapters where he suffers the consequences of his actions – overt Schadenfreude. However, my favourite part of the novel; the part I reread even though I cry every time (even in front of my Year 12 students); the part I see as the heart of the book, is the creature’s narrative. I sympathise with his plight and through Shelley’s carefully constructed first person narrative I even empathise with his anguish, but I still enjoy reading about it. I derive pleasure from his misfortune even as I cry for him – covert Schadenfreude.

As I’ve argued before, very few good novels have happy endings so I guess that makes us booklovers a bunch of sadistic voyeurs who “derive pleasure from the misfortune of others”. Fine in literature, but perhaps this is why I find the whole misery memoir genre so disconcerting – a little too much Schadenfreude for my taste…

(*Images from Wikipedia)

Going out’s great…and coming home’s better!

Cheers!

My social life has been in overdrive for the last few days, which was a bit of a shock to the system. I spent the weekend singing, dancing, drinking, talking and dressing up at one of my oldest friend’s hen weekend. Being in our 30s, we’ve moved beyond the ‘humiliate the bride and/or give her alcohol poisoning’ stage and actually all had a great time. Highlights included recording our own version of Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’, learning to make a French Martini and going out on the town dressed for a masquerade ball! However the best part was the chance to catch up with two old friends and make some new ones at the same time – the most memorable bonding activity was eating pizza in our PJs while showing off photos of our children.

Then I came home to my boys… The Jam had a brilliant weekend with DH, MiL and FiL. He missed me just enough to make me feel important but not so much that he was upset, asking “me see Mummy now?” but being satisfied with a phone call and a promise to “see soon”. I got a wonderful cuddle when I got home. It turned out DH missed me too so he took me out to dinner the night after I got back. More dressing up (thank you L K Bennett) and drinking, as well as an amazing view over London. (Lovely restaurant, he must have really missed me!)

Not my picture, but you get the idea…

Good friends, great family – lucky me.

Arrow – first episode on target

I love comic book characters and their stories. Before most of you stop reading, I’m not a fan of actual comics and I don’t care if they’re DC or Marvel (to be honest, I can never keep track of who’s DC and who’s Marvel anyway). As a child I watched the ‘Superman’ films starring Christopher Reeve and I used to get up early to watch various versions of Spiderman (and even Spiderwoman – remember her?) cartoons on a Saturday morning. As I grew up comic book characters got darker and edgier, essentially growing-up with me, which is brilliant as  it’s now cool to watch a Batman (sorry, ‘Dark Knight’) film.

This evening I caught up with the latest television incarnation of the Green Arrow, Sky’s new ‘Arrow’ series. It’s clearly influenced by the very successful recent ‘Batman Begins’ etc and, to a lesser extent, the Tobey Maguire ‘Spiderman’ trilogy. The hero, billionaire playboy Oliver Queen, returns from five years living like Robinson Crusoe (but with better weapons and a six-pack) and vows to clean up his city. He plays the playboy by day and dons a mask at night, after fashioning weapons in his cave abandoned factory (so far, so Batman). He warns off his ex-girlfriend (Mary-Jane Watson Laurel Lance) because he knows that she’ll get hurt and after all, as Uncle Ben tells Peter Parker, “with great power, comes great responsibility”.

These clichés (if you don’t like them) or tropes (if you think that familiarity with the devices associated with a particular genre can add to your enjoyment) have so far been played straight, but I’m hoping for some subversion or inversion to take this programme into new territory. One step in that direction is that this (anti)hero is willing to kill to protect his identity, establishing a significant grey area in his morality.

Okay, it’s silly and it’s far-fetched but so far the writers have managed to keep within the realms of possibility (by escapist fantasy standards). I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I don’t like the voice-overs explaining Queen’s motives and plans but hopefully they’ll be curtailed once the back-story is established. I know a little bit about the Green Arrow mythology, which isn’t necessary to follow this programme, but it does add another layer of intrigue as several minor characters have very familiar names. Waiting to see how the writers use them is one aspect that will keep me interested.  I’ll let you know if I’m still watching in a few weeks time…