Some Stones Unturned

Knitting, Biking and Some Sober Second Thoughts

FO Friday: Coastal Hoodie

Coastal hoodie side view pockets

Two sweaters in one week. Now I probably won’t finish another one for years. Just the way the timing goes sometimes I guess. I really love it, although I do regret not waiting it out to knit it all in the same yarn, but it seems to be okay.

Pattern: Coastal hoodie by Tori Gurbisz

Yarn: Malabrigo Arroyo – 636 yards Prussia Blue, 319 yard Borraja (that gorgeous purple colour); Araucania Ranco Solid – 541 yard colourway 141 (blue), 114 yards colourway 146 (yellow green). I had a ton of yarn left over based on what I had calculated I would need.  I had about one skein left of both blues and the purple and there’s another entire skein of the lighter blue I didn’t even wind.

As I noted previously, I somehow bought the Araucania without realizing it was 75% non-superwash wool and 25% nylon so the sweater is not machine washable as I intended, which is a big part of why I wish I had waited to find all Malabrigo (=100% superwash) in colours and yardages I could use. The Araucania is a bit duller and fuzzier than the Malabrigo too. But overall they did knit up to the same gauge and you can’t tell from any reasonable distance, so mostly it’s the washing thing that annoys me.

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FO Friday: Aidez

This post is brought to you by the miracle of blocking and the letter A.

I know it’s not Friday, but I have paper corrections to work on and a couple of job interviews coming up and my apartment is a disaster, so I’m just going to write this up while I have a chance.

Aidez front view

You can see where I blocked a teensy bit hard on the front and it doesn’t quite fall straight down. Hoping it will even out over time.

I finished Aidez (or on Rav)! It knit up pretty fast. So fast that I actually ended up finishing it before Coastal Hoodie, which I started long before (I had to sew on buttons for that and lost my sewing needles, but I bought new ones and got them on and it just finished blocking, so once I have pics, that’ll be up too).  It was everything that was promised: fast, pretty, nice cabling but not overly complicated.

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Some Valentine’s Day Poetry

I’m a day late actually posting these and they’re no “Roses are Red”, but I thought I would try my hand at some double dactyls since they’re sort of fun.

Not to be one of those “It’s so commercial” people, but…

Higgledy piggledy
That great saint Valentine
Married some folks in the
City of Rome

Now we pay tribute with
Cardiogonical
Chocolates priced so high
I’ve lost my home

And with the help of some info from Wikipedia,

Higgledy piggledy
Reverend Valentine
Bound pair of lovers for
Life with a ring

Or it just might have been
Non-Canterburian
Tales from Geoff Chaucer that
Claimed love’s the thing

So it snowed here

snow

Blargh.

It snowed quite a bit actually.  And people freaked out.  And then other people freaked out about the people freaking out. Which I don’t really understand because as much as getting snow is a part of living in Canada, so is complaining about getting snow, at least in Southern Ontario for as long as I’ve lived there.

I myself am not much of a winter person. I’m fine down to about -12 and I’ll tolerate about -18 if there’s not much wind. I think snow is pretty and I like cross-country skiing but I don’t get much of a chance to do it. But for the most part, I just grit my teeth and try to outlast the winter, which hasn’t been hard the last couple years of non-winters, but is looking like it may be more challenging this year.

And as I was contemplating this, it struck me how the year is structured for people like me, with roughly one communal event or idea per month that we’ve agreed to to try and convince ourselves it’s not so bad and it’ll be over soon.

October I still consider fall.

November is typically when you get the first snowfall, so it’s still new and magical seeming and you’re not yet tired of putting on two layers every time you need to go pick up some milk or something.

December is Christmas or whatever your solstice-timed holiday of choice is, celebrating, as Doctor Who so beautifully put it, being halfway out of the dark. The sun is barely out, but at least the days will be getting longer, right?

January has New Year’s when you are meant to approach the world with fresh optimism, start some new routines and make some changes in your life to spiff things up.

February has Groundhog Day.  I know this seems like a stretch, but the very fact that news crews get up at 6 am and wander out to a hole in the ground where a guy in a ridiculous costume claims to tell you what a groundhog is thinking pretty much tells you how desperate we are for something, anything, to tell us how much longer we have to endure winter. I had a roommate from the Netherlands for a while and he saw Groundhog Day being covered on TV and trying to explain it to him was next to impossible:

“Why does him seeing his shadow mean anything?”

No no, it’s just a silly tradition.  It doesn’t mean anything.  There will be more winter regardless.

“Oh, well how do you know if he saw his shadow?  Do you ask him?”

It depends if he runs back into his hole.

“Won’t he run back in because of all the people around?”

Never mind.  This is too hard to explain.

I’m not saying this is a good “getting through it moment” for February.  I blame the February blahs on the questionableness of this moment. I mean, first off, the little guys can’t seem to agree and just taking a simple majority doesn’t seem to give reliable predictions. But even if it did, then if he does see his shadow you still have six more weeks!  But still then you know there’s an endpoint somewhere down the line, which is comforting when winter seems to be dragging out forever.

March is the time for the expression “In like a lion, out like a lamb.”  Or vice versa.  So either the weather is terrible but you remind yourself that it’s about to get better. Or it’s nice but you remind yourself not get too excited because there are still some cold spells to come so you should take advantage while you can.

And then April is spring, hopefully, at least if you live in certain parts of the country.

So currently still a month and a half to go. But we can do it folks. We’re, like 78% of the way out of the dark I think, if I did my math right.

Adventures with Sherlock Holmes and the Toronto Tea Festival

At the start of this year, I found out that the Toronto Public Library is renovating the usual location of its quite extensive Arthur Conan Doyle collection and has put a number of the pieces on exhibit at the Toronto Reference Library. I was a pretty big Holmes fan as a kid and even made the trek out to Reichenbach when I was in Switzerland.

Holmes and I chilling in Meiringen

Holmes and I ponder how to show this picture but maintain some anonymity

I have started critiques of several of the recent adaptations and homages for this blog only for them to turn into an absurdly long, disorganized mess. So Adventures with Sherlock Holmes seemed like a great opportunity to explore more Holmesian goodness. In particular, this past Saturday the library was scheduled to show Murder by Decree and tour the exhibit afterward.

I went to a local blog to see if I could find more details for the event, particularly whether tickets were needed, and I found out that Saturday was also the Toronto Tea Festival. How could I not have known? I was torn between two of my great loves. But as fate would have it, the Tea Festival was also happening at the Toronto Reference Library. So I hurriedly packed a bag and headed out earlier than planned in the hopes of getting as much tea festivizing in as possible before the movie.

And, well, I might have gotten a little distracted by the tea. It was fairly busy, but not bad by Toronto Festival standards (You could still move, for example). Although I often had to wait a while to get to the tables, I certainly managed to make it around the exhibit hall in a reasonable time, stopping for a few samples:

tea sample cups

I don’t live right downtown, but I get around enough that I was surprised there were so many great vendors I wasn’t aware of. Really this is my own fault for sticking with David’s Tea because they are in my ‘hood (with the occasional House of Tea side trip), but I guess they are sort of the “big chain” now, which seems so strange because I remember when they opened and I think they only had a few other locations in Toronto and Montreal and now they’re all over. Anyway, here are a few highlights from the festival. Read more…

Loose Ends: Coastal Hoodie, Aidez and Food

A lot of short things.

I have finished the knitting on Coastal Hoodie.

Image

Before I did the button band.  Love the Borrjas (pinky-purple) colourway.

It is looking pretty sweet.  I ended up mixing yarns because I couldn’t find other available colours of Malabrigo Arroyo that I liked.  I went with Araucania Ranco and somehow it’s not machine-washable, which you would think would have been one of the things I checked when matching it up, but I guess I was so focused on finding a similar weight and that was challenging because the Malabrigo is labelled as sport but is closer to a fingering.  Checking the comments for Araucania, that’s also the case with that yarn.  Why didn’t I just check the fingering weight section for something appropriate and machine washable?  I can’t recall.  So anyway, I do think the Araucania looks a bit shabbier and it will prevent me from machine washing, but maybe after a hand wash and blocking it will look okay (the biggest issue is on the sleeves where I tried to duplicate stitch to hide the jogs but I’m not sure how successful I was.  Anyway, I think I left my main set of sewing needles at my parents’ and my wool needles are too big to fit through the holes of the buttons I picked while the eyes on my remaining few are too small to fit wool through, so that project is just awaiting my purchasing new sewing needles to finish and then I will show it off.

In the meantime, I have cast on for Aidez with some Knit Picks Cadena.

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The overuse of the delayed character reveal in Jack Reacher

I went to see the Jack Reacher movie with my family last week during the holidays.  I haven’t read the books, but I really enjoyed it.  In contrast to a number of recent action movies I’ve seen (particularly Bond), it didn’t try to throw so much stuff into the plot that things stopped making sense.  And, in spite of hitting all the action movie tropes (initial refusal to come out of retirement, car chase, girl getting kidnapped and going to save her even though she’s clearly bait in a trap), it didn’t feel overly predictable.  It was just predictable enough that I felt clever for figuring the occasional thing out, but not so predictable that I had it all figured out and got bored.

But what I thought was strange about it is that the writer or director or someone involved in the movie seems to be a huge fan of what I think of as the delayed character reveal.  And in a bizarre way where the use of the technique doesn’t serve any purpose that I can determine.  Let me try to explain.

Sometimes a character’s face is hidden from the audience.  Things about the character are revealed by shots of their hands or other character’s reactions to them or voiceover narration about the character.  Then, at an appropriate point, the camera finally moves to show the face of the actor playing the part.  This is the delayed character reveal.

As explained on the TV Tropes page for The Faceless, there are several possible reasons for hiding a character’s face.  Sometimes, like in Kill Bill 1 or the 2009 Sherlock Holmes movie, hiding the villain’s face makes them seem more important or threatening.  Sometimes it’s done to show a crime but still keep the mystery of which character (who will be seen throughout the story) is the culprit a secret (eg. Murder She Wrote, Law and Order, most CSI episodes).  But neither of those are quite what I’m talking about and in fact the sort of hidden face here doesn’t necessarily have to be used for a villain or a twist ending.

Perhaps closer is what sometimes happens on the TV show Criminal Minds, where they show a crime without revealing the perpetrator’s face, but the point isn’t so much to preserve the mystery of the killer’s identity.  Often in Criminal Minds, the culprit isn’t otherwise seen as a character in the show: the FBI agents don’t speak to the criminal before they manage to track them down at the end.  Instead the point is more to keep the possibilities open for the audience to form ideas about them without an actual image of the face.  As the FBI narrows down the profile, the image in your mind gets sharper and it becomes clear to the FBI agents who the killer is at the same time as the camera finally gets a clear view.  Often the reveal is of someone we’ve never seen before.  Sometimes there’s a twist like they had been looking for an old man all along, but just realized the killer is a young woman, but often it’s just that the connection between the killer and the victims is made.  This style of delayed character reveal doesn’t have to come at the end of the story and can be quite brief.  It can also be done with heroes, having people describe them while they are still off-screen or in voiceover while headless shots of them go by so you can get a sense of the character before their face is shown.

So anyway, Jack Reacher has three delayed character reveals in just the first 20 minutes and several later in the movie as well.  I will discuss just the first three and there aren’t really anything I consider spoilers since the end result is pretty clearly telegraphed ahead of time, which is part of what makes their abundant use so bizarre.

The movie starts out with shots of a man driving a van fairly recklessly into a parking garage interleaved with shots of making bullets, prepping a gun, etc, so it’s clear he’s up to no good.  He parks, pays and gets his gun out of the van and starts lining the sites up with people in a park across the river.  During this time, we only really see this guy from behind or in shadow and so the idea conveyed is “Who is this guy?  Why is he doing this?”  He shoots five people in the park and then his face is shown.  On its own, this isn’t such a strange reveal, potentially falling into the “faceless people seem more threatening and have an air of mystery category.  But in fact it turns out that this is not the Big Bad with all his hidden motives and master schemes.  Rather it is some hired gun, who does feature quite prominently in the story as Reacher’s adversary, but for whom mysterious motivations are not required.  Neither is it some well-known actor, which is often the case in these sorts of reveals.  So it seems a bit strange to hide his face for the first ten minutes of the movie and then reveal it for very little payoff, but it wouldn’t be that remarkable if it weren’t for what happens next.

The police arrive on the scene and start gathering evidence: picking up shell casings, dusting for prints, security footage.  This gets them a name and they head to the man’s home.  We are less than 15 minutes into the movie at this point, so it could not be clearer that this is not our guy, yet the film-makers still go to the trouble of keeping this man’s face hidden: having the police find him passed out face-down on the bed, keeping shots below the neck and, as he is being questioned, keeping the cameras focused on the interrogators so the man’s answers come from off-screen.  This goes on for a couple of minutes before the camera pans over to reveal what have known to be the case since they busted into the man’s home: this man is not the face of the man we saw in the parking garage.

The wrongfully accused man then asks for Jack Reacher.  Who is this Reacher guy, the police and DA want to know.  A detective does some research and explains to the DA that Reacher is an ex-army member of the military police.  We cut to a shot of a man’s legs walking.  He was exceptional, the detective’s voiceover tells us.  He served in wherever, has a bazillion medals blah blah blah.  Headless man is still walking.  But Reacher is basically a ghost now, dropped off the grid since he got out of the army.  His payments go to an account in Virginia and he always collects them by wire transfer at a location they won’t be able to get without a warrant.  We see the legs walk up to a Western Union booth and the woman behind it hands over some cash with a nod as though she sees the man regularly.  Headless man walks away.  The description continues and the legs go a few other places.  Now I don’t see a lot of commercials and this wasn’t my movie pick, so I didn’t know a ton about the movie going in, but even I knew that Tom Cruise played Jack Reacher.  It’s on the poster outside the theatre.  So when the DA, defense attorney and detective are talking in the hospital outside the accused man’s hospital room and the legs walk up to them and they want to know who the man is, I’m not quite sure what the point of revealing Tom Cruise’s face as he introduces himself as Reacher is supposed to be.  It’s unusual to meet the main character so late into a movie but presumably the idea is to emphasize that Reacher is a tough guy to find and make his protestations at being drawn into the events more believable.  But delaying it even longer than necessary with these awkward camera angles is puzzling.  Once Reacher’s name is mentioned, shouldn’t it be fine to just cut to him doing his thing?  That’s what we’re there for.

After this, I couldn’t stop noticing how characters were introduced and re-introduced.  Weirdly, they sort of subvert the trope with the Big Bad.  He is standing off in the shadows at first, but it’s not long before he steps out and one of the minions then actually turns his head away to avoid seeing the Big Bad’s face because he thinks that increases the likelihood of his being killed.

Anyway other than the overuse of the delayed character reveal, which I found distracting (I kind of want to watch it again just to catalogue them all), I really enjoyed the movie.  If you’re an action movie fan and not bothered by Tom Cruise, I recommend it.

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