Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Give Good Face?

I have just begun a new photography project, and I'm in need of subject matter.

Here's the deal.

I'm looking for
  • men
  • who live in the city of Chicago (not Chicagoland - within the city limits)
  • who identify openly as gay or bisexual
Subjects do not need previous experience and all types are needed, regardless of age, body type, ethnicity, economic status, or anything else. If you meet the requirements above and wish to be photographed, I wish to hear from you.

The photographs will be portraits, non-sexual, in a variety of settings. Sittings should take no more than an hour and will be arranged at a time and place mutually agreed upon. More information will be provided upon inquiry.

The portraits will be assembled into a finished work to be exhibited and possibly published.

There is no cash payment, but I will provide each model with a finished print or an electronic version suitable for use online. All models will be required to sign a standard model release.

If you're interested, please write to me at fmh60657 (at) yahoo daht cahm, with the subject line "Portrait Project."

C'mon, guys. I know you're out there.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Another Finished Object

In addition to Pride, there was knitting.

I finished the Polar Princess Hat and am mostly, though not completely, satisfied. I think for the most part it's satisfactory. I'd just refine the design if I did it again. Maybe make the front side of the ears pink. And make them smaller. Aim higher, ever higher.

Polar Princess Hat, Completed.

And here we have the pair of baby hats, modeled by Giacomo Puccini and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Bunny and Bear Hats, Completed

No pictures of the sock yet, but I like Mary Thomas's method. It's logical and easy to remember, and so far the sock looks like a sock.


We just celebrated Pride Weekend in Chicago. If you're reading this blog, you probably already know what that is. But just in case, here's the nutshell explanation.

Pride Weekend, which is some places is still only Pride Day or may have expanded to Pride Month (is anybody that gay?) is the time of year when the part of the population that is in some way a sexual minority (it started with gay men and lesbians, then incorporated bisexuals, and in now in many places also includes transgendered folks) gets out onto the streets en masse to say–when you get down to the bottom of it–we're here, we're not ashamed of who we are, and we're always going to be here.

When all this began in the early 1970s, it had a very defiant, activist tone which faded somewhat during the 80s and 90s and now, with the advent of near-theocracy in the United States, seems to be resurfacing.

I went to my very first Pride Parade on the sly back when I was a kid in Hawaii and wasn't yet out to my family. It was small, and it took guts for the people in the parade to walk down the street behind those banners. I still have the "Gay Pride Hawaii" tank top I bought and hid in the bottom of my dresser drawer.

My second Pride Parade was in Boston, during the summer after my sophomore year. I loved it, though I was pissed off with the coverage the event received in the newspapers. As I recall, about 100,000 people showed up, the parade was two hours long, and the Boston Globe gave the story two inches at the bottom of page 20.

You see some of everything at Pride. Exactly what "everything" encompasses depends on where you are. In Chicago, we're famous (or infamous) for the politicians who ride or march in order to curry favor. This year, we even got the governor and at least a dozen others, including a clerk of the court, an assessor, and somebody who does something with water reclamation. This is to be expected in a city where our favorite spectator sports are baseball, politics, and architecture.

The general rule, however, is that no matter who marches in the parade, the straight media only ever shows pictures of either drag queens or leathermen walking slaves on leashes. This is intended to shock and titillate, though why even straights would find the sight of either shocking in this day and age is beyond me.

Groups who march who will probably never appear in the newspapers: church groups, gay parenting groups, police officers, firefighters, veterans of the armed forces, contingents from Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and members of gay/straight alliances from high schools.

I'll admit that Chicago is much better about this than Boston was, but that's a pretty low standard to beat.

The crowds of spectators have changed a lot. You see many, many more straight people than you used to, and more children overall, many of them there with their gay parent or parents.

There is an anti-Pride sentiment among some gay people. The viewpoint seems to be that the parade is passé and unnecessary, though I noticed one didn't hear quite so much of that this year with the government taking pot-shots at our right to exist.

Me, I enjoy the spectacle, and I will keep going and celebrating and being visible until it's safe for a 12-year-old kid in Peoria to take another boy to school dances. Until we get to that point, I will not agree that we have nothing left to march about.

I have nothing sterling in the way of photos from the March but here's a small sample. Heavy on drag as by luck of the draw the shots happened to come out the best. You go, girls.

Lakeside Pride Marching Band, Chicago Pride Parade, 2005

The Lakeside Pride Marching Band.

Harley Riders, Chicago Pride Parade, 2005

Two of the Harley motorcycle riders.

Leader Singer of Barely Standing, Chicago Pride Parade

Lead singer of the band Barely Standing.

Brazilian Woman, Chicago Pride Parade, 2005

One of the women from the Brazilian contingent.

Drag Queens, Brazilian Float, Chicago Pride Parade 2005

More Brazilians, some not actually women.

The Illinois State Lottery Float, Chicago Pride Parade, 2005

The Illinois State Lottery float (I kid you not).

Miss Kitty's Mermaid, Chicago Pride Parade, 2005

The Little Mermaid, non-Disney version.

With Chris, Chicago Pride Parade, 2005

With Chris after the parade. I now have a very weird camera strap tan-line.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Photography and Knitting Report

I'm modestly pleased with my camera work lately. Well, not so much the work itself as the fact that I've been able to stick to my goal of putting the knitting needles down and working on prints or taking pictures.

Usually, I'm a street shooter, mostly because I don't have a studio. When necessary, my living room can become one, especially since I have lovely north light and am on a high floor.

C needed a new headshot, and so up went my Wamsutta seamless drop (which doubles, don't you know, as a bedsheet) and out came my full battery of lighting equipment (which appears to the naked eye to be desk and floor lamps). Here's the result, my favorite and his.

Portrait of Chris, June 2005

It helps when your subject is cute as all get-out.

I also had a studio assignment for work. In this case, the subject is a variety of products we sell online, for an ad in the university magazine. Our line-up is going upscale, with better clothing and higher end stuff like wines and jewelry. (Guess who took the photo on the wine label?)

I never knew, until I had to do it, just how tricky it is to do a good shot of a product, let alone a group of them. You can't just put the junk on a table, take a picture, and call it a day. Every wrinkle, speck of dest, bumped corner or scratch is magnified tenfold. And if you don't light it properly, it looks like somebody's eBay post.

Working in tandem with Katie, one of my favorite coworkers ever, we got this.

NAA Online Products Magazine Shot, June 2005

Katie, bless her soul, did all the legwork for getting props and such. Our set up on shoot day was about three hours, the shots themselves took less than two hours. And, like C's headshot, this was done with no professional lighting equipment. What did we use, then?

A former colleague had Seasonal Effective Disorder (SAD) and as part of her therapy kept one of those full-spectrum light boxes in her office. She left it behind, and it turned out to be a marvelous source of fake sunlight, no gels or warming filter necessary.

The flowers, by the way, were left over from the 50th reunion party held in this same room. They were nearly dead but don't look half bad out of focus, eh?

Never let a mere lack of equipment and experience get in your way.

Make Two

The Polar Princess Hat (thank you, Cheryl and Jon - your suggestions combined led to the new moniker) still has no face, but it does have one ear and will soon have two.

Jack the Teddy Bear needs eyes and is unassembled, but is stuffed and sewn. I also have to finish inscribing the little wooden heart that will go inside his chest, and which (unless C rips open the seams in a fit of pique) will never be seen. But I'll know it's there. I think I may also embroider my initials on the butt. Steiff does a button in the ear, and after almost three months of labor I want similar recognition, but in my own fashion.

Buzz's mittens are next, and also something for me: socks.

I asked for suggestions about sock knitting ages ago, and boy did I get them.

Sir Edwin demonstrated socks on two circulars, and I was mightily impressed. Faustus, a trustworthy fellow if there ever was one, seconded the motion. And I had votes for the time-honored dpn school from people who sure as hell ought to know, like Felicia and Tricky.

And after all that, I've decided to do what I usually do. Go off in a direction that nobody recommended and which will probably prove troublesome in the extreme, but which right now seems romantic.

I'm knitting socks as directed by Mary Thomas in Mary Thomas's Knitting Book.

Do you know this book? Miss Thomas published it in 1938, and I've fallen in love with it through a shockingly inexpensive Dover reprint. It's thorough, illustrated with adorable line drawings, and written in the sort of firm, no-nonsense tone you'd associate with Mary Poppins or the dear, late Queen Mother. It is the oppositie of hip, funky, and now. That is and will forever be a siren-call to me.*

As soon as I get a pair of US #3 dpns, Miss Thomas and I will be convening in my wing-backed chair to begin socks according to her method which, she says, "Once learned...will never be forgotten." How could I resist?

*I don't know what it is about me and the stiff-upper-lip wing of British womanhood. Penelope Keith, Emma Thompson, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright...there is nothing like a dame, but there's nothing for me like a Dame. Ladies, if you're reading this, you give me heart flutters and I am yours to command.

Sheepish Grin

I haven't said a word about this in my own blog as, for reasons that will be apparent, I didn't wish to seem to promote it.

Over the past two weeks, I have been the object of great generosity. Selma, a reader of QueerJoe's and (thanks to Joe) a reader of mine* got it into her head that I ought to see the New York Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, New York. They thought, moreover, that my way ought to be paid as a sort of scholarship.

And so Joe set up a fund through his blog, the Fresh Air Group (FAG) for Franklin. Now, to my great delight and greater surprise, I'm going to Rhinebeck.

This must be the RAOK to end RAOKs. I'm stunned.

There is talk of doing this again, next year, for another person and I hope it will happen, because I'd like to contribute to it.

At present, I guess all I can do is write a heartfelt "thank you." And pray when these warm, witty and intelligent people meet me, they won't ask for their money back.

*Although she may stop reading me if I don't get my frigging post about Lily Chin finished.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Cautiously Optimistic

I haven't any photos to offer yet, but sewing on Jack the Teddy Bear began this weekend. So far, so good.

I've stitched, turned, and provisionally stuffed the body, the head, and both arms. Nothing looks deformed, there are no whacking great holes in the fabric, and both arms are the same size and shape. Granted, Grandma might not think my "finger sewing" is quite up to snuff yet, but I'm doing my best and growing nimbler with each piece.

The head, in particular, has turned out to be splendidly formed with a fine, proud snout.

And the mofo is big. Either the finished size indicated in the book is off, or I mismeasured my gauge. I was expecting to make something that might fit into, say, a large coat pocket. Instead, Jack is about the size of a four-month-old baby.

I'm deeply impressed with the attention to detail in Sandra Polley's pattern. For example, Jack (supposedly inspired by mourning teddy bears created after the Titanic disaster) has the humped back typical of antique teddies. It would have been easier to leave that shaping out, but she didn't.

Of course, if she had I probably wouldn't have bought the book or be making this bear. I've seen a quite a few patterns for stuffed animals and have mentally filed most of them under "Why Bother?" If Jack didn't have a certain amount of interest to him - if he had no potential to be more interesting or attractive than a sock monkey - I'd have done something else.

(I confess that "Why bother?" is and always has been my reaction to any project that advertised itself with disclaimers like "No sewing skills required!" or "Even a child can do it!" I object to the modern fashion of making a virtue of ignorance.

Even a child can do it, indeed. Children can do more than glue popsicle sticks together. Teach them to knit. Or sew. Or bake. Or change spark plugs. Give them a skill that will expand their brains and outlast the dubious pleasures to be found in a stupid kit.)

Other Bear-Related Knitting Projects

I finished up the main part of the Little White Bear Hat (I need a more interesting name for it) on the train. Only ears to make and attach, and a face to embroider.

I was proud of myself, when I lost a stitch marker during the commute, to think of substituting one of the hoop earrings I was wearing. I know that's not an original idea. I'm just proud that I thought of it on the spot. With my sieve-like brain, every small moment of lucidity merits celebration. So hooray for me.

After the Imperialist Bunny Hat, Jack the Teddy Bear, and the Little White Bear Hat, it's time for Buzz's mittens.

It will feel odd to knit something that has no face.

And Please Welcome to the Blogosphere...

My sister Susan, who as it happens inspired me to start blogging with her paper journals.

She's here and off to a good, solid start. As always, I'm gigantically proud and wanted to lead off with this item, but I thought I might embarrass her. And I've done that so frequently over the past several decades.

Now that she has a public forum, of course, I'm sure payback will be hell.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Most Inappropriate Google Return Ever

If you use Google to search for the following:

what should i "wear to lollapalooza?"

Mine is the only link that shows up.

That's like asking Britney Spears what to wear to garden party at Buckingham Palace, or how to spell "cat." She'd have no idea, and when it comes to dressing for Lollapalooza, neither do I.

Okay, I admit it. I am fascinated and often appalled by the ways people use Google to get to my blog.

(And to whoever got here by searching for "anal mints" a couple weeks ago, I'm pretty sure the best solution for your apparent problem area is to try washing it with soap and water.)

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Did I Say Cher?

Miss Ross

I meant Miss Ross.

If you take a look at my project list in the sidebar, you'll note that the Skully Sweater I started during the winter is getting frogged. I've learned a great deal about knitting since I revved up the needles again last October, and one of them is that a baggy sweater knit with bulky yarn and featuring a garter stitch border is not going to do my fireplug body any favors.

I've never frogged anything quite this big before. And although I did check my helpful little library (Montse Stanley, Maggie Righetti, St. Elizabeth of the Schoolhouse, Debbie Stoller, Mary Thomas, and Persons Unnamed at Vogue) I didn't find much information about frogging. Except that sometimes, you have to do it. Just pull, they suggest, and watch your sweater melt.

So I started ripping back, and it took about four inches for things to get weird.

I made the sweater, obediently following the pattern, using Lamb's Pride bulky. And I find myself (I think) up against the universal truth that mohair - even part mohair - sticks together like a group of Tri-Delts at a Hell's Angels rally.


What you would have seen yesterday sprawled on my couch, and would this morning see sprawled on the floor where I threw it, is a giant tangled heap of kinky yarn that looks exactly like Diana's hair in the above photo. At a glance, you'd think she was chilling out at my place, watching The Pallisers and drinking Yoohoo, and forgot to take her wig along when she left.

C says it looks more like I gave King Kong a bikini wax.*

I haven't quite given up yet. This yarn wasn't out of the bargain bin and I do have something else in mind for it, if I can get it unraveled. I want to make myself the Prime Rib Sweater from Zimmerman's The Opinionated Knitter, though mine will be shorter to suit my shape (unlike the model in the book, I have an ass).

Back to Jack

Last night I checked the mail and discovered that those nice people in Canada sent me the bag of joints I ordered, the ones for Jack the Teddy Bear.

(If you got here via google because you're looking to buy medical marijuana from Canada, I apologize.)

I admit to fear and trepidation as I contemplate the sewing and stuffing and assembly. I must also figure out how I'll make it up to C if, after all this, the thing turns out looking like hell.

*He keeps forgetting that I'm the funny one, he's the pretty one. Me, funny. Him, pretty. Not so hard to remember, is it?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Vivat Victoria Regina Imperatrix Cuniculorum

Imperialist Bunny Hat, Completed.
Originally uploaded by panopticon.

The Imperialist Bunny Hat is finished.

I somehow feel as though Elgar should be playing under this photo, don't you?

Embroidering the face was fun, once I came to understand that yarn does not behave exactly like floss.

It took me two tries to get the left eye to lie properly flat, and two tries to make a second eye that matched the first to my satisfaction.

The yearning, goggle-eyed expression is jarringly similar to that which appears on my face when I'm standing in front of the Leica display cabinet at Calumet Camera.

Pattern Erratum

The pattern for this hat, to be found in Stitch 'n' Bitch Nation, is delicious to knit and I recommend it. However it does contain one small error.

See how the headband bulges out in front? The pattern directs one to purl all those stitches. The idea (judging from the photographs) is to create a flat garter stitch border that grows seamlessly from the garter stitch flaps on the back of the hat. To this end, the pattern instructs one to purl all these stitches.

I was four rows into the headband before it occurred to me that when knitting in the round, purling all stitches doesn't give one garter stitch, it gives one reverse stockinette, which curls inward.

Oh, fudge.

I was feeling very stupid about this until I remembered St. Elizabeth Zimmerman's dictum, "It's not a mistake if you know how you did it."

And ultimately I've decided I liked the curled headband so much better than the flat that I'm doing the matching Little White Bear Hat the same way.

I have to cut this short, but do drop in later if you want to find out why it looks like Cher has been hanging around on my sofa.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Everybody in Bunny Hats

Little Pink Bunny Hat, 90% complete.

The Imperialist Bunny Hat, above, is now finished except for embroidering the face on the crown. I'm looking forward to doing that - I learned to embroider before I ever knit, and this will be the first time I have a chance to combine the two.

While dear Victoria did agree to another modeling assignment, C has suggested that I should consider augmenting my cabinet des mannequins for the sake of variety.

To that end, I offer the following:

Alternative Hat Models

Friday, June 10, 2005

Needles or Lenses

I'm making the last pieces of the bunny ears, using Colorado Jon's marvelous suggestion that I cast them on and work them simultaneously on one circular from two balls of yarn. This has at least three benefits:
  1. I am guaranteed (as Jon pointed out) two same-sized ears.
  2. I feel like I'm only making one, thus avoiding the "make two" nausea.
  3. I look like such a fancy, experienced knitter.
Focus, Please

Chidren in the Fountain, Millenium Park, Chicago
Millenium Park, Chicago, 2004

Meanwhile I've come to a realization, an important one. You can do many things while you knit, but you cannot work a camera. My revitalized interest in knitting is keeping me from working on photography. This will not do.

It wasn't until recently that I realized my lifelong habit of sabotaging myself - of getting to a certain level of proficiency with something, and then dropping it out of (I think) abject fear of rejection and ultimate failure. Usually, I substitute one mania for another. And that's just what I'm in danger of doing.

I've gone further with my camera than I ever did with writing or acting (both of which I have made money at, and considered pursuing as careers). But it's been a long time, too long, since I spent an evening working on prints instead of on knitting projects, or spent a well-lit day out on the move with one or more cameras.

If I'm going to continue to invest time and money in photography, I need to find out if I'm good enough to get my stuff on a wall somewhere. I think it might be. But I need to find out.

Why should I care? Why not just keep it a hobby and chill out?

Because I feel about photography the way Jon, and Marilyn (The Knitting Curmudgeon), and QueerJoe, and Yarn Harlot, and TrickyTricot and so many of you do about knitting. I love it. I get passionate over it. I wish I could do it all the time, every day.

My present occupation does not fill me with joy, nor does it make me passionate. Quite the opposite. Foolish as it may be, I dream about making more of my income - if not all of it - with a camera. And for once in my life, I'm not afraid to try, even if I do wind up looking ridiculous. I just have to know.

Expect, therefore, a little less knitting and lot more photography chatter in here for a while.

But the knitting won't go away, I promise. It, and y'all, are just too much damn fun.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Double Your Pleasure

Silly me. I was having a simply brilliant time working on the bunny hat and then I came to...the ears.

Sir Edwin
and Colorado Jon both want to know where the ears are. They're coming, kids, they're coming. You knit them separately and sew them on. It's just that after knitting all those damn double and quadruple parts for the teddy bear, running up against the words "make two" in a pattern has the same effect on my stomach as seeing the words "final notice" on a bill.

I seriously toyed with making this a bunny who's had an unfortunate encounter with a lawn mower or tried to waltz with a vicious dog. But no, mustn't warp the babies' brains just yet. We have plenty of time to do that when they're older.

On the bright side, I admit that I love the way the hat is turning out and the ears aren't really that much to knit. Each has two pieces, and they're so small that I finished a whole ear piece during my morning commute.

Before I go back to doing the work I'm supposed to be doing, I wish to mention that in the wake of yesterday's anti-Victoria controversy, I've felt compelled to rename the Little Pink Bunny Hat. See the list of works in progress in the sidebar.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Pax Victoria

Well, now. The focus of my last post was a pink baby bunny hat. You wouldn't think that would cause an explosion of hate mail, now would you?

It did, because I had the audacity to display the hat on the head of the bust of Queen Victoria that stands on my desk, along with busts of Jane Austen, Puccini, Shakespeare, Dickens, Empress Sisi of Austria, Bach, and Mozart.

Birdfarm and Jon both made comments, perfectly acceptable comments, which mentioned some of the less humane policies enacted by Victoria when she was on the throne. No problem there.

Then there followed the e-mails - sixteen of them - the likes of which I've never received before. For mere possession and display of 18 inches of plaster statuary, I was called a racist, a sexist, an imperialist, and a bigot. Not mention internally homophobic. Mind you, none of my correspondents had the courage to post comments. No, they chose instead to send e-mail so others would not see what they wrote.

I haven't the time or inclination to respond in person to each. A simple post will suffice. And then I consider the subject closed.

Now Hear This

I am well aware that Queen Victoria was in many ways, by modern standards, a cruel and inept leader. (Hard as it may be to imagine, in her own era she was one of the more equitable. Read a little world history, and see for yourself.)

Particularly after the death of the Prince Consort, Victoria's single-minded devotion to what she believed would be Albert's wishes on everything led to conservative and reactionary policies that caused widespread hardship for some of England's domestic subjects and also some of those who inhabited British colonies and territories.

So, Why Do You Have a Bust of Her?

I do not have a bust of Queen Victoria on display in my house because I naively think she is a candidate for sainthood.

I do not have a bust of Queen Victoria on display in my house because I think she was a model ruler, a model mother, or a model anything else.

I have a bust of Queen Victoria on display in my house because, first of all, female rulers - indeed, women in command of any sort of power - are a lifelong source of fascination to me.

Second, I have a bust of Queen Victoria on display in my house because she is the ultimate symbol of a period in history that interests me particularly, from a country whose history has always interested me in general.

Third, I have a bust of Queen Victoria on display in my house because this particular bust, which came from working-class pub in London and has the nicotine stains to prove it, is a little piece of history and I like looking at it.

Fourth, I have a bust of Queen Victoria on display in my house because I need somewhere to put my bunny hats when I photograph them.

History: Good or Bad?

To the writer who feels it is inappropriate to "celebrate" (by which she seems to mean remember) a "bad time in history," I say that history in itself is neither good nor bad. History simply is.

I have no illusions about the British Empire having been a wonderful institution, nor do I wish (as one of you suggests) to see it return. However, why should we pretend it never happened? And why, if we study it, may we only focus on the horrors?

In my considerable reading on this period I've been fascinated by the outpouring of art and literature, by the results of cultures and religions colliding, by technological innovations transforming the world at a breathtaking speed. Victoria reigned during a positively cataclysmic era. Some of what happened was to the betterment of humankind, some of it was dreadful. I want to know about it all.

Victoria vs. Adolf

One of you suggests that for a gay man to display a bust of Victoria is equivalent to a Jewish person hanging up a picture of Adolf Hitler. This is insulting, absurd, and incorrect. Victoria is not generally thought of as a symbol of unadulterated hate. She did not set out to systematically exterminate homosexuals. Victoria's legislation on homosexuality reflected the accepted morals of her day, and was neither especially harsh nor particularly unusual for the time.

We are all in part a product of the time we live in. Had you been alive at the time, the chances you would have been outspokenly "Queer Positive" are pretty slim.

The Unmentionables

Another fellow's suggestion that Victoria should not even be mentioned or taught about in schools because of her less noble qualities is ridiculous. If we are not to study, or even mention, persons who are less than perfect, we shall have nobody to mention or study. Even St. Francis of Assisi had his moments.

To speak of historical women specifically, I've also got a painting of Empress Maria Theresa up in my kitchen. Consider her illustrious career:
  • Waged deadly wars to further her own ambitions.
  • Used her own children as pawns in international politics.
  • Promoted general education for both boys and girls, including musical studies.
  • Instituted training and certification for midwives in order to lower the mortality rates for mothers and infants.
Good or bad?

How about Eleanor Roosevelt? She's going up on the wall as soon as I get the proper frame for the photo I bought at the Smithsonian. Amazing woman. One of my idols. A source of endless inspiration. Someone I would give a year off my life to meet. Also largely responsible for beginning welfare programs in rural America that may well have led to a cycle of dependency that continues to this day.

Was she good or bad?

The creation of a list of "unmentionable" topics is stifling to academic freedom and I oppose it vehemently and with all my heart. I am all for reasoned and balanced discourse. I am not for biases that slant in either direction.

You want to live in a world where nobody ever disagrees with you or your views? You shouldn't be at a university. Go found a commune. And good riddance to you.

Feminist, My Ass

And finally, one priceless commentator, who describes herself as an "ardint [sic] feminist," faults Victoria for her flaws as a ruler but doesn't have a problem with Henry VIII because, as a man, his actions were part of his nature. Sorry, honey, but that ain't feminist. Holding women to a higher moral standard was one of the most pernicious aspects of Victorian society, a society in which you would perhaps feel strangely at home. Go lace yourself into a corset and ponder your sins while embroidering "The Lord is My Shepherd" on a cushion. And stop reading my blog.

Discussion's now over on this one, and I mean it.

Back to knitting and photography. Thanks.

Check Out My Bust

Pink Bunny Hat, 50% complete.
Originally uploaded by panopticon.

The little pink bunny hat is proving to be a hoot, not to mention a holler.

I achieved closure on the body last night at some ridiculous hour. While preparing to photograph it lying flat, I realized that the perfect baby hat model was close at hand.

As you can see by the expression on Victoria's face, she was not entirely pleased at being pressed into service. However, when C commented that it makes her look years younger, her disposition improved markedly.

And no, the resemblance to Darth Vader's helmet has not escaped me.

I'm trying to learn something new with every project, and this one has short row shaping and I-cord, both of which are marvelous fun.

I confess it did take me three tries to finally puzzle out exactly what one needs to do to make the I-cord. I'm not sure if this means I'm not enough of an idiot, or way too much of one. The latter, I fear. It would explain a lot.

Monday, June 06, 2005


Hancock Plaza, Chicago, 2003
Hancock Plaza, Chicago, 2003

Like the little bridesmaid above, snapped as she floated up the stairs behind her mama, I progress.

Teddy Bits

I have finished knitting all the components of Jack the Teddy Bear. Glory Hallelujah. After spending a month turning out four arm pieces, four leg pieces, two body pieces, four ear pieces, three head pieces, and two soles, my stamina is an established fact. I don't think I need ever worry about Second Sock Syndrome.

That is, of course, if I ever actually get around to knitting socks.

The World Is Out of Joint

There will now be a slight pause as I await the arrival by mail of the joints for the head and limbs. I had to order them from Canada. (Canada's got it all these days, it seems. Gay marriage. Yarn Harlot. Reasonably-priced medicines. And teddy bear joints.)

There is no place in Chicago that sells them. We haven't got a Michael's anywhere I can get to, and the few remaining sewing shops have cut back to the basics. The Brain Surgeon who answered the phone at the only Joann Fabrics in the city not only said they didn't have them, but asked why I would want to make a teddy bear when I could buy one.

That seemed an odd thing for a woman working at a fabric store to say.

I thought I might find them at this quite large craft shop near my office, an honest-to-God family-owned, non-chain establishment that's been there for years and has some of everything. Unfortunately, finding out meant playing the usual game of "Who's On First?".

Me (to well-meaning Polish saleswoman): Can you tell me please, do you sell safety joints for dolls or teddy bears?

Saleswoman: Teddy bears? Oh. Let me show you, we have kits.

Me: No, I don't need a kit. I only need the safety joints. I'm knitting the teddy bear.

Saleswoman: Knitting? No, you don't want to knit a teddy bear, let me show you kit, it come with everything.

Me (very slowly): No, you don't understand, I have already knitted the teddy bear. I just need the joints in order to assemble it. To put it together.

Saleswoman: I don't think this is possible, to knit a teddy bear. Maybe you would like to make with kit?

Me: I have already knitted it. See? (Showing her leg piece from my knitting bag.)

Saleswoman: This does not look to me like teddy bear. You are sure you know how to knit? Why your girlfriend is not doing for you? She would like the kit maybe?
I'll spare you the rest. After Miss Congeniality left me alone, I did take a look at the kits to see if I could scavenge joints from them, but they were the sort of thing you give to untalented kids to play with on rainy days. You know - pipe cleaners, chenille bumps, and styrofoam balls. Beautiful.

So Butch

On the other hand, said store has jumped on the knitting bandwagon since my last visit (when I was buying gold-leafing supplies) and now has a rather impressive selection of lower-end stuff. Aluminum needles, cheapo yarn, and so forth.

I picked up two gigantic skeins of "baby yarn" (for babies, I presume - not made from babies) and am humming along with presents for Liz and David's twin baby girls. Two hats: one, the pink bunny hat from Stitch 'n' Bitch Nation; the other, a white adaptation of the same made to look like a bear.

I was a picture, I'm sure: sitting at the coffeeshop near my apartment on Saturday morning in old shorts, combat boots, and a red tank top with Caligula on it, knitting a bunny out of fluffy pink yarn.

And Finally

This was such a small thing, but it made me feel good, and I'm writing it down so I won't forget it. I was riding the train home on Friday evening and making speedy progress to the end of the teddy bear's last leg piece.

Before she left the car, a Chinese lady of a Certain Age who had been sitting nearby stood up, came over to me and said, "Young man, you handle those needles very well."

I remember how the Chinese grandmas in Hawaii could knit. I was on a cloud for hours.

Friday, June 03, 2005

I Was Just Curious


I Can't Wait for the Parade

Monday, I was simply puzzled. Tuesday, I began to suspect. Wednesday, it seemed almost certain. Thursday, I prayed it might not be so. By this morning, there was no denying it.

Although I somehow missed the mayoral proclamation, it's Freak Week in Greater Chicago.

Here's my own Freakspotting Diary.


The enormous number of hungover stragglers stumbling about the neighborhood after International Mr. Leather and Bear Pride made it hard to pick out the full-time resident freaks, but the sight of two 450-pound men lunching alfresco in leather harnesses that must rival the cables on the Brooklyn Bridge for tensile strength was more than sufficient.


The Chicago El (the elevated train I take to work) is always fertile territory for freaks, and the Tuesday morning commute offered a bumper crop. It's hard to single out any for special praise, but I must award points for creativity to the lady who took off her wooden platform shoe after boarding the train at Morse and had a conversation with it all the way to Howard Street.

In the evening, I was sitting in the laundry room of my building knitting while I waited for my wash cycles to finish. I was joined by a man wearing headphones. He put his clothes into the wash and then launched into what I can only describe as a full-blown "American Idol" audition, complete with hip-shaking choreography, an occasional pirouette, and Whitney Houston vocal stylings. He was using his bottle of "Snuggle" as a microphone.


As I was walking from the office to the train, I saw a man sitting at a table outside a restaurant jump up and start following a woman who was passing by. He started yelling, "Did you vote yet? Did you vote yet? Did you vote yet?" She screamed at him to leave her alone, and he immediately shut up and sat down as if nothing had happened. I should mention that no general elections of any kind are taking place in Evanston or Chicago at this time.


Between my morning and evening commutes, I saw no fewer than six people fall down on the train platforms or the sidewalks surrounding the stations. They didn't collapse, faint or trip, mind you. They just sort of sat down hard, suddenly. And then got up again. I assume this was a special Freaks Working in Concert performance piece. Bravi tutti.

At the gym in the afternoon, a complete stranger came up to me while I was walking on the treadmill, said to me, "You must be listening to Led Zeppelin," and walked away.


At Berwyn, a lady got into my train car and sat down near me. I was trying to finish up the latest teddy bear leg and so didn't pay much attention to her until she started having a very loud, angry cell phone conversation with her mother about the color of the curtains (green) her mother is putting up in the living room. This wouldn't have been at all freakish, except that when I looked up from my knitting to give her a "Could you please keep it down?" sort of glare, I saw she didn't actually have a phone.

I wonder if it's too late to book tickets out of town for tonight?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Your Questions, Answered. Or, What The @$%# Is a Panopticon?

Mark and now Mush have both asked what the hell the title of this blog means. Here's the short form.

The original "panopticon" (derived from the Greek for "a device in which everything can be seen") was a design for a model prison, created by the British philosopher Jeremy Bentham (whose theory of Utilitarianism kicked my ass freshman year).

Within the panopticon, prisoners could theoretically be seen at all times in all places by the guard/inspector, whom they could not see. (If you'd like to have a look at the design, and read more, this is a good place to begin.)

What I liked about this as a blog title was the idea that it could be taken two ways:
  1. By reading this, you've got me under surveillance. Anybody can see what I write in here, without me knowing they're reading it. (Hi, Mom.)

  2. At the same time, anyone who comes into my view may wind up on display without knowing it–the reverse of the above relationship. Fair is fair.
What I also like about this as a blog title was that it makes no references to "rants" or "musings." I try not to do those things in here.

Hearing me rant is the almost exclusive burden of the preternaturally patient C, whom I try to recompense in many and varied ways.

Hearing me muse is the almost exclusive privilege of the little blue man who lives in my head and often tells me to do wicked things.

He says that right now I should go eat a lot of sausage pizza.