A poetry magnet composition

Published on Thursday February 28th, 2008

to woman: does your tree door need man help?

– Hattie and Sarah, aged 6

Yesterday I left school grinding my teeth at the actions and attitudes of some stressed middle-schoolers. But a morning with the littles celebrating the 100th day of school can restore every good feeling.

Super Tuesday

Published on Tuesday February 5th, 2008

Oregonians don’t get to vote in presidential primaries today, but if you live the half of America that does have that chance, will you please take a few minutes to mark a ballot? I think there’s a flame kindling in Americans at last — I see it in the record numbers of voters turning out in the early states. I want to think this country is waking from complacency and finding it has strength for right action. I want to think we could elect someone to lead us, not to govern us — someone who might ask us to serve our country and our world with our brains and our determination and our energy rather than encouraging us to contribute by going shopping. These are testing times. I want us to pass, and to reach for more than just passing. By voting, at least we’re writing our names at the top of the page. So if you have the chance today to speak your mind about the future of this country, please make yourself heard. Thank you.

In lieu of a blog roll

Published on Friday February 1st, 2008

Blue Garter hasn’t had a blog roll in a long time. Mostly that’s because there’s a wee issue somewhere in the code that causes my posts to appear below the sidebar in certain browsers, which makes me nuts. And I’m not clever enough to add a new tab at the top instead. (The power to address these issues does, of course, sleep on the other side of my bed, but asking for tech support is like poking a caged bear with a sharp stick, so I choose to live with bloggy imperfections.) But I do read a lot of knitting blogs, and several kind folks have recently given me the nod for the You Make My Day tag that’s sweeping the internets. I feel the need to pass along the niceness, and the opportunity for readers to discover something fresh and new the way I have in following others’ links. So herewith a handful of the knitterly blogs I especially appreciate.

Knitting Kninja

Kristen is the best friend I’ve never met: we bonded over our love of Lloyd Alexander’s books and only later discovered we both kept knitting blogs. Not only does she produce beautiful knits and offer her own clever patterns; she also writes formidably well and with passionate spirit. Plus she has three of the cutest kids on the planet.

Elliphantom Knits

Gorgeous knits with perfect finishing, beautiful photography, great patterns, humor – she has it all. And her little ghosty knitting elephant banner triggers my cuteness reflex every time. I want my blog to look like hers when it grows up. 


Enviable photography, Red Sox love that makes me pine for Boston even though I’ve never quite lived there, squeezable cats, and knits that inspire me because she always thinks of color combinations or unexpected details that I wouldn’t. You must see her Rambling Rose cardigan in progress.

Cranky is Good

Daphne is an excellent knitter, but there’s so much else I love about her blog – cycling, Jane Austen Masterpiece series coverage (and Jane-inspired patterns!), thoughtful commentary on the world beyond the sticks and string, mad sewing skills, and more.

The Knitting Philistine

Megan can crank out perfect handknits like nobody’s business. She also makes awesome soap that really does wake me up during my morning shower, and she’s an archaeologist, and she’s a talented photographer.

Rndnrnd We Knit

I’d like to be able to knit like this someday. Sigga Sif is always knitting exciting patterns I haven’t seen before, too. And she can take a mean photograph. Check out her galleries of finished knits.

And this is totally cheating, but Ravelry makes my day, too. Some of the best knitters I know don’t keep blogs, so it’s fabulous to have this internet agora for the craft. Long live Jess and Casey.

In other news, I’m still twiddling my thumbs waiting for some decent winter weather. Could we get just one snowfall on the east side of Portland? I’m thinking of going skiing this weekend just so I can feel the squeak and crunch of snow under my boots in the parking lot, let alone the exhilirating hiss of it under skis. I haven’t skiied on Mt. Hood since I was on the racing team in high school, and that’s a terrible state of affairs. I’m off to rummage in the basement to see if I can’t dig up all the necessary equipment.

A public service announcement

Published on Sunday December 9th, 2007

Many of you know I used to edit children’s books for a living. It was work I mostly loved, and it carved my affection for children’s literature into a lasting passion. That means I’m snobby about the quality of books: of course I want kids to fall for reading, and if that means they devour a lot of trash on their way to the good stuff, so be it. But I hope they’ll develop palates discerning enough to tell the difference and appreciate well-written, thoughtful books with something worthy at the core. I want those stories and their characters to live on in children’s imaginations after the last page is turned. And I jealously guard my own experiences of good books.

So I greet the current parade of adaptations for the big screen with a healthy dose of distrust and chagrin. The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter seem to have inaugurated a veritable gold rush to mine the children’s literature canon for blockbusters. When the former head of Dutton Children’s Books made the decision to sell merchandising rights to Winnie the Pooh, he privately referred to it as the Rape of Pooh. I can’t help but see a Rape of Children’s Classics underway. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Bridge to Terabithia, Charlotte’s Web. I can hardly bear to mention The Polar Express. And according to the previews, they’re plowing through the contemporary best-sellers next: Inkheart is next on the block, and there were posters for The Spiderwick Chronicles all over the theatre. This is not to say that good movies can’t be and haven’t been made from children’s books. (I’ll skip, for now, the tangential argument that having the experience handed to you visually is far less fulfilling than animating the story yourself as you read.) But too many attempts to capture the worlds and characters that live in our hearts fall desperately flat, and I’m afraid I have to pronounce The Golden Compass just such an effort.

I probably should have known better. It lured me with its fine cast and promising visuals. I love the story, and I wanted to see if Hollywood had taken the care to do it right. They didn’t. The directing, screenwriting, and editing are poor. I’m not sure I’d have been able to follow the story at all if I didn’t know the book. It’s choppy; it’s a madcap dash from one plot point to the next in order to squash the tale into feature length. Countless subtleties that slowly dawn on you in the book are dumped out in expository dialogue like Spam from a tin. The CG isn’t convincing except in a few scenes (the bear fight, notably, and for some reason the forms of transportation) where they clearly spent the extra money to dazzle us. And the movie isn’t convincing, either. Mostly, it’s just frustrating. You catch glimpses of what it could have been: Lee and Hester are pitch perfect, Fra Pavel is unctuous and creepy, Lyra is forthright and brave and doesn’t overact, Lord Asriel is suitably haughty, Serafina Pekkala is luscious and otherworldly (and boy can she fight without mussing her hair). Nicole Kidman is a reasonably good Mrs. Coulter, although she looks disconcertingly like Renee Zellweger in many of her costumes. Unfortunately, the golden monkey is such a lousy piece of digital work that I was distracted from her performance.

So what’s the silver lining of two wasted hours? Peter Jackson just keeps looking better and better. I may have to do my evening cashmere lace knitting to one of the Lord of the Rings movies.

P.S. If you’re set on seeing The Golden Compass despite my warnings, at least do yourself the favor of sprinting from the theatre as Lee’s balloon sails off into the sunset after the fight at Bolvangar (yes, that’s really where the film ends), before the soul-sucking treacle of the Original Song oozes stickily over the credits. It’s quite honestly the worst piece of music I’ve heard in years. My ears and stomach have not yet recovered.