Sunday, January 15, 2017

On gaslighting, chiefly.

Ingrid Bergman in "Gaslight" (1944) | Public Domain
This week, I'm going to continue my policy of no political posts -- even though we're about to swear in a new President whom only 37 percent of Americans approve of, and whose behavior toward the traditional media has earned him the nickname "Gaslighter-in-Chief," to go along with all the other unflattering nicknames he's picked up.

So what is gaslighting? Unless you're familiar with 1940s Hollywood movies -- or unless you've been unlucky enough to come into contact with a psychologically unstable individual who wanted to make you crazy -- you may never have heard the term before.

Gaslighting is a technique used by people with certain mental disorders, including Narcissistic Personality Disorder, to control their victims. The perpetrator uses a variety of tactics to isolate his victim, and then repeatedly calls into question facts and events that the victim knows to be true. The perpetrator's aim is to divorce the victim from reality. Eventually, the victim becomes filled with self-doubt and believes she's going crazy -- making her fertile soil for the perp's continued abuse.

The term comes from the 1944 movie "Gaslight." Ingrid Bergman won an Oscar for her performance as Paula, the niece of a dead opera singer whose murderer was never found. Paula enters a whirlwind courtship with a man named Gregory, played by Charles Boyer. They marry within a few weeks of meeting, and move into the dead woman's London townhouse. Gregory then proceeds to isolate Paula, telling her it's for her own good because she's become a kleptomaniac -- and indeed, it appears she stole his watch and placed it in her handbag without remembering she had done it. She also hears footsteps in the attic where the dead aunt's things have been stored -- but the attic entrance has been sealed up. And she is sure that the gas light fixtures in the house periodically dim, but Gregory tells her it's all in her imagination. (Boys and girls, natural gas was used for home lighting before electricity became popular. My grandmother's house had wall sconces with both a light bulb socket and a gas nozzle.)

Spoiler alert: Paula is not crazy. Gregory is her aunt's murderer, and married her to gain access to the house to search for the dead woman's jewelry. He'd be okay with shipping Paula off to the nuthouse -- it would give him free rein to conduct his search.

As it does in the movie, gaslighting starts gradually. The perpetrator's behavior may seem a little weird to you, but you make excuses for him. Then you begin defending yourself as he criticizes things you do that you thought were normal. Eventually, you doubt your own perceptions and can't tell what's real any more.

So how do you cope with a gaslighter? The best advice I can find on the intarwebz is to get away from him as fast as you can. Unfortunately, the US will be stuck with this Gaslighter-in-Chief for four years. Just remember, folks -- no matter what he says, we're not crazy.

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These moments of non-gaslit blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Knitting for winter.

January is the perfect time to get some knitting in, if you're so inclined. It's usually cold (in the Northern Hemisphere), so just stepping outside provides a vivid illustration of the worth of the craft -- as well as a reminder about the projects you should have gotten to before the mercury dropped so precipitously.

I did get one cold-weather thing done: this hat. (Sorry for the frowny face. I was trying to get a good shot of the button and kind of forgot to smile.) The yarn was an impulse buy at the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival last fall. It's by Shalimar Yarns and it's superwash merino, cashmere, and silk: cuddly and warm. It's also bulky weight, which is thicker than regular worsted weight yarn, which means the project knits up quicker. Anyway, the colorway, Skyline Drive, was created by Shalimar for the festival, and I liked it a lot. I also happened to have that big moon button, so I stuck it on the hat.

After I started wearing the heck out of the hat, I thought about how nice it would be to have a cowl in the same yarn. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough left. Fortunately, my daughter Amy had bought a skein, and she gifted it to me at Yule. (Thanks, Amy!)

This is where my poor planning comes in. I didn't cast on for the cowl until tonight. It's supposed to be really cold again tomorrow, and I won't have this done. But I've made progress, as you can see, and I'll definitely have it done for later in the winter. (That's Mr. Wommy in the background. People on Ravelry often post photos of their work together with their cats, and people who don't have cats sometimes ask why we get our cats to pose with our work. What they don't understand is that there's no coercion involved; the cats simply show up.)

Under the cowl, and to the right, you can see my other work-in-progress: a Wrought Iron shawl, which I referred to on Facebook yesterday as the Endless Colorwork Shawl of WTF Was I Thinking. It's a long rectangle -- 320 non-repeating rows -- and I'm almost half done. The "non-repeating" part is important; with a lot of knitting patterns, once you've done a few repeats, muscle memory takes over and you can watch TV or even have a conversation while you knit. With no repeats, you have to concentrate all the time. I can't tell you how many rows I've had to rip out when I've gotten to the end and realized I miscounted somewhere along the way. In other words, it's slow going.

It's also slow going because I'm doing both continental and English knitting in the same project. These terms refer to the way the stitch is made. Most people learn to knit English style, which is where you hold both the yarn and the working needle in your right hand; you stick the needle through the old stitch and wrap the yarn around the tip of the needle to form the new stitch. I, however, learned to knit continental style, in which you hold the working needle in your right hand, but the yarn in your left hand; you make a stitch by poking the needle through the old stitch and catching the yarn with its tip. I find that continental style gives me more control over the tension on my yarn. But I have a relatively new problem with English style: I'm flexing my right wrist a lot, and it's causing my carpal tunnel syndrome to flare up. Yesterday I did ten rows on the ECSofWTFWIT, and this morning I needed ibuprofen for my right hand.

And then, too, the directions call for knitting the shawl in a long tube; when the colorwork is done, I'm to cut the tube open and add a border all around. I've done the technique before, but it just adds another layer of complexity. Bottom line: It will be a while before this project is done, but it's going to be beautiful.

Compared to all that, the Oak Park was a piece of cake. The pattern is by Laura Aylor, and the design reminds me of the Eden Prairie shawl I made a few years ago -- although this one is more Mondrian than Frank Lloyd Wright. You can make it as either a scarf or a cowl; I opted for the cowl. It turned out well, as you can see, but it's wider than the other cowls I've made, and I need to figure out how best to arrange it when I wear it. The Mondrian-like blocks kind of lose their impact when they're all bunched up around my neck. But I may wear it tomorrow, even though it doesn't match my hat. It's going to be cold!

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These moments of chilly knitting blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year, same old clickbait arguments.

Envy by Josse le Court - National Museum, Krakow |
CC 1.0
Welcome to 2017, which a whole lot of us hope won't be as bad as we think it will.

The Huffington Post must have had a slow week last week -- wait. Of course they did. It was the week between Christmas and New Year's; barring some huge breaking news story, everybody's on vacation. So anyway, somebody at HuffPo reached into the blogger slush pile last week and decided to run this submission that retreads all the old complaints about indie publishing: indies are hacks, and self-publishing is only fit for the elderly who want to pass along their life histories to their kids and don't want to take the trouble to learn how to write properly, and so on. You know, the usual stuff.

Predictably, the comments section lit up with indies taking umbrage. The author of the piece, Laurie Gough, had the grace in her responses to retreat a little, and admit maybe she spoke a little hastily. Still, some folks felt compelled to mention that Gough's comments might have been spurred by sales envy, as many indie books sell better than hers. The responses included this blog post, which advanced the usual arguments against attitudes like Gough's with a supersized side of insults.

Maybe it's because I'm getting over the flu (thanks, 2016, for that parting shot), but the whole thing is making me tired.

Look, we've been fighting this stigma since -- what, 2009? 2010? And you know what? We don't hear much about it anymore. That's partly because the complaints are starting to sound like sour grapes, like Gough's does. But it's also partly because trad-pubbed midlist authors are pulling their backlists from their publishers and self-pubbing those older books, and making more money now than they did before.

To recap: yes, many indies employ professional-level editorial staffs (including beta readers) and cover artists, as well as more dedicated marketing managers than your average overworked PR person at name-a-trad-publisher; yes, many indies have more education and experience as writers and editors -- paid experience, even! -- than the politicians and starlets who get the big-ticket contracts these days; yes, some indie books are terrible, but then so are some trad-pubbed books; and yes, in today's publishing world, getting a contract is mostly about luck -- unless you're an indie who works your butt off to maneuver your way onto a bestseller list, at which point agents who know a golden ticket when they see one will begin pestering you to let them sell your work to a "real" publisher.

Can we just stipulate all that?

And then, the next time somebody decides to publish one of these tired, disproven rants, can we all just not react? Because I suspect that if articles like these stop getting clicks, publications like HuffPo will stop running them -- and then we can put this pointless conversation to bed, once and for all.

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I'm actually feeling much better today. Thanks for asking.

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Writing news: Editing will commence shortly on Maggie in the Dark. In addition, just today, I finished a short story (epic fantasy!) for the next Five59 anthology. I'll let you know how that goes.

Oh, and Happy New Year!

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These moments of retreaded ranting blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Christmas vacation.

Today is Christmas Day, and while I don't personally celebrate the holiday anymore, I know that a lot of my readers do. And by Christmas night, I think we're all feeling a little like Santa here.

So hearth/myth is taking a break this week. Have a good nap by the fire -- with a cat on your lap, if you can swing it -- and I'll see you in 2017.


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These moments of holiday-induced blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.