Sunday, November 27, 2022

What women want.

Not long ago, I got around to watching Three Thousand Years of Longing. (I admit it: I skipped the in-person theater experience and waited 'til the streaming price had dropped below ten bucks.) I had really looked forward to this film. It seemed promising: the stars are Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba, and it included some Arabian Nights-like tales. 

And at first blush, the film delivered: it had humor and tenderness and love, and if not a totally happily-ever-after ending, then at least an as-happily-as-things-could-end ending. I came away from it oddly satisfied.

But as the glow faded, I started thinking about what I'd seen. And I came to the conclusion that I'd been had. 

First, though, the premise: Swinton plays Alithea Binnie, a narratologist -- a scholar of storytelling. She is in Istanbul for a conference of like-minded scholars when she runs across a decorative bottle in a junk shop. Impulsively, she buys it. The next morning, as she's cleaning who knows how many eons of grime off the bottle, the top pops off and out swirls a djinn, played by Idris Elba. The djinn tells her he's been trapped in that bottle for a couple of centuries. Then he pesters her into making three wishes, as djinni do -- and they must be for her heart's desire. "I know what women want," he says at one point, or words to that effect. There must be something her heart desires.

She shrugs. Her heart desires nothing. She is happy with her life in London and with her career. She had a love affair once that didn't work out, and now she is happy to be single. The only thing she wants is to know how the djinn got stuck in that bottle.

Thereby hangs the majority of the movie. The djinn recounts his adventures -- or rather, misadventures -- with several women, starting with the queen of Sheba and ending, always, with him trapped in a container of some sort for the next several hundred years. 

His tales have an extraordinary effect on Alithea. She decides what she wants, more than anything, is to be loved the way this djinn had loved the queen of Sheba. And because his nature requires him to grant wishes, he does.

As Alithea observes, though, in any story involving the granting of wishes, there's always a catch. In this story, the transition for the djinn to the modern world nearly kills him -- so of course he and Alithea can't be together forever. They work out a sort of truce -- that's the as-happily-as-things-could-end ending I mentioned earlier.

I don't think I'm spoiling much by telling you all this. The published reviews I've seen cover the same points -- and as most of those reviewers have said, the best parts of the movie are the stories the djinn tells. Once he has granted Alithea's wish, he stops telling stories, and the rest of the movie kind of flits by.

But as I've said, I liked it when I saw it. I liked that things didn't work out perfectly for Alithea and the djinn; that's how love affairs typically go, even when they don't involve a magical creature. My problems began later, after I thought about what I'd seen.

My main issue was that the djinn never explained what he meant when he said he knew what women want. And after ruminating on it, I realized that what he may have meant is this: No matter what a woman says -- no matter how happy she claims to be -- her heart's desire is to be loved and cherished by a mate.

And here I thought the heart's desire of all women was to have functional pockets.

No, really. Many of us are perfectly happy alone. The implication that when we declare that happiness, we are lying to ourselves -- that we doth protest too much -- is an insult.

But that never occurs to Alithea when she jumps from "I'm happy with my life the way it is" to "love me like you loved the queen of Sheba." I get that the movie is supposed to be a love story, but come on. 

The film has other problems, implicit racism being one of them. But this was the thing that bugged me the most. 

If you've seen it, let me know what you thought.


I still maintain that the thing women most wish for is functional pockets.


These moments of wishful blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!

Sunday, November 20, 2022

My crafty fall.

I have another topic I wouldn't mind writing about (actually, if I wanted to go all political again, I have a few topics I could write about), but I've been promising y'all a crafts post for the past several weeks. So here we go.

This is not just knitting this time, oh no, and it's not just weaving, either, although we'll get to both of those in a minute. First, let's talk about the table fail.

Maybe a year and a half ago, I bought a used equipale table from someone on Facebook Marketplace. Equipale furniture, by the way, is made in Jalisco State in Mexico; Mama Google says the name comes from ikpalli, the Nahuatl word for chair. (I'd post a link, but all the sites I've found so far look kinda sketchy. You're welcome.) It's characterized by thin cedar planks criss-crossed for the base, plus leather upholstery for chairs and either leather or copper for tabletops.

My tabletop was covered in leather, but it was worn out; I tried leather cleaner on it, but it was just too far gone. So I planned to rip it off and redo it, maybe making it look like copper. Here's what it looked like as I was pulling off the leather: 

Lynne Cantwell 2022
As you can see, it was pretty rugged underneath. I'd planned to fill in those cracks and things with wood filler, but it turns out that I suck at using wood filler. It ended up all lumpy bumpy. I painted it with metallic copper spray paint anyway, but it just looked terrible. 
Lynne Cantwell 2022
So I purchased a random orbital sander, sanded off the mess I'd made, and repainted, this time with metallic copper spray paint that included primer. The result wasn't perfect, but it looked so much better! So I went ahead and put a few coats of polyurethane on it and called it done. 
Lynne Cantwell 2022
Next up: weaving. Right after I moved into the condo, I'd purchased memory foam cushions for the dining room chairs. Here's the problem with memory foam cushions: if they're not very thick, they flatten out pretty fast. If you're just grabbing a bite, they're more or less fine. But if you want to sit at the table for a while, well. It's not the most pleasant experience. So I decided to make my own cushions. I have four chairs, so I'd be making four cushions total.

I bought the yarn last December. (It's churro wool from Tierra Wools here in New Mexico.) Then I spent several months dithering around with the design while my cataracts got worse. Finally, I got started on them several weeks ago.

The first step is to measure out the warp threads (the ones that go the long way on the loom). There are a few ways to do this, but for the table loom, indirect warping -- measuring out the warp on a warping board and then moving it to the loom -- seems to be the way to go. I needed each warp thread to be five yards long, so I could do two cushion covers at once. Here's how the warp threads looked on the board. Well, technically, this is how half of one warp looked. I had to do this a total of four times -- two warps for each set of two cushions.

Lynne Cantwell 2022
If anybody really wants an explanation of the difference between direct and indirect warping, I'll tackle it in a different post. For now, let's just move on. Here's the loom all warped and the first cushion cover about a quarter done: 
Lynne Cantwell 2022
Once the loom is warped, the weaving takes no time at all. But then I had to sew the covers together and stuff the polyurethane foam forms into them. I also braided some of the leftover yarn into ties for the cushions (those will probably get swapped out for something less stretchy later, once I figure out what to use instead). A few days after starting the project, the first two cushions were done, and Tigs put his stamp of approval on them shortly thereafter. 
Lynne Cantwell 2022
The final two cushions are woven and nearly finished; I need to sew the second tie onto one of them and finish sewing the sides and ties on the other one. I'm hoping to finish that tonight, once I post this. And I have plenty of yarn left over, so I'm going to make a table runner to match -- although hopefully it won't take me another year to design and it. (It won't. I just need to the additional warp yarn I've ordered to get here.)

Finally, I completed the knitting project that's been the bane of my existence since last winter. On Ravelry, I called it the Spiral Sweater of 897,000 Ends to Weave In. 

Lynne Cantwell 2022
It all started at Taos Wool Festival last fall, when I bought a couple of bundles of Fusion 800 yarn. Each bundle contained 100-yard lengths of eight yarns, all in the same colorway (mine is called Aurora Borealis), but each a different type. One was tweedy, one was spun with sparkly strands, one was a boucle, one was mohair-like -- you get the idea. Every time I ran out of a 100-yard length and joined the next one, it created two ends to weave in. And I switched yarns a lot

I knitted this sweater top-down, and it occurred to me last spring as I was about to finish the body of the sweater that the stitches I'd put on holders for the sleeves were in the boucle yarn. Which meant picking up stitches in boucle under the arms. Which wasn't going to be any fun. Plus I had to measure out and split the yarn I had left so that each sleeve would more or less match. And hope I had enough left of the yarn I'd used at the neckline and sweater bottom for the cuffs. And weave in all 897,000 ends. 

At that point I made an executive decision: It was getting to be too warm to knit with wool (not to mention the cataracts), so I set the project aside for the summer. This fall, I put on my big girl pants and dealt with the damn sleeves and all those ends. And as you can see, it turned out fine.

To think I could be writing a novel this month instead...


These moments of all sorts of crafty blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe! And for my American readers, happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Read this book.

I used to have a book review blog called Rursday Reads. I started it because my TBR pile had gotten so big that I needed a kick in the seat to whittle it down, and a commitment to review a book a week seemed like just the thing. Once I got the TBR pile under control, though, I lost interest and shut down the blog. (Nearly six years ago? Wow, time flies.) 

Anyway, the point is that I write very few book reviews these days. But I am moved to write one about the novel I just finished today: Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver. 

I'm not sure I'd even call this a review. It's more of a fangrrl thing.

Kingsolver has been one of my favorite authors ever since I read The Bean Trees. (It's a wonderful tale of a young woman from Kentucky who moves to the Southwest and, along the way, is given a little Cherokee girl under mysterious circumstances. There are a couple of sequels that are just as good as the first book.)

Demon Copperhead is a lot longer than The Bean Trees -- the new book clocks in at 560 pages. It also differs in that the new book is a modern-day update to Dickens's David Copperfield.

I read David Copperfield about a million years ago, but to be honest, I don't remember much about it. So I'm not really able to tell you about the parallels between the stories. (In its review, The Guardian does what I can't.) I can tell you, though, that it's not necessary to have ever read any Dickens to enjoy this book.

Demon, whose real name is Damon Fields, narrates his own story with a voice that is pure Appalachia -- and that's a good thing. The vast majority of the book takes place in Lee County, VA, in the extreme southwestern corner of the state. Demon lives with his alcoholic mother in a single-wide trailer owned by the Peggots down the road. He's forced to mother his own mother, getting her through her days, until she dies of an overdose on his eleventh birthday. Then he's thrown into foster care, enduring one bad situation after another -- abuse, child labor, drugs, the works. His luck turns and he becomes a star football player in high school, but a knee injury knocks him out for the season and the only real treatment he's given is a prescription for pain pills. This is the era of the opioid epidemic in Appalachia, and Demon and his friends all end up addicted.

Kingsolver takes an unflinching look at the foster care system and the damage opioids have done to the region. But to be honest, Appalachia has been forgotten, except as the butt of too many jokes, for decades. The opioid crisis is just the latest in a series of exploitations of the people who have lived there for generations; as someone in the novel observes, if it hadn't been OxyContin, it would have been something else.

The book is infuriating in places, too, as when we learn that none of the money from the opioid legal settlements has ever gotten back to the victims.

But it's not all grim. Kingsolver is masterful in describing the beauty of the land. And there are funny parts, as when Demon describes an outfit his friend Maggot is wearing: "...the neon mesh sleeves and giant black pants that he and his Batcave pals got at their Goth outfitters place over to Christiansburg. Chains all up and down the legs, so if you needed to put the boy on a leash you'd find many convenient attachment points."

Dickens shone a light on the ills of London society and helped to make things better for the downtrodden. I'm not sure Kingsolver's book will have the same kind of impact -- our society is too different, our attention scattered and our interests siloed -- but I hope it gets people's attention, if for no other reason than to convince folks to lay off the hillbilly jokes. As Demon observes, "We can hear you."

The Washington Post review says Demon Copperhead may be the best book of 2022. It's definitely the best I've read this year.


For those who care about that sort of thing, I paid for my copy of Demon Copperhead.


I'll do a crafts post next week, I promise.


These moments of bloggy book reviewing have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Democracy on the ballot.

Happy Day After Daylight Savings Time Ends! I hope y'all got good use out of your extra hour today, whether doing chores, having fun, or simply sleeping in.

Here in the US, we have an election coming up this week. I feel like I ought to say something about it, even though I've already voted and, I suspect, a whole lot of you have, too. 

Lynne Cantwell 2022

It's too late in most jurisdictions now to vote early. If you haven't cast your ballot yet, or sent in an absentee ballot, then please make plans to get to the polls on Tuesday.

I keep seeing how this is the most important election of our lives. Funny how it seems like every election these days is the most important of our lives, isn't it? But it's true. Midterms don't usually fire voters up unless they're mad about how things are going and they want to throw the bastards out. That means that during non-presidential-election years, the party that doesn't hold the presidency usually takes control of the House and Senate. But Democrats are trying hard to keep that from happening this year. President Biden and former President Obama told campaign rallygoers yesterday that democracy is on the ballot. (Tucker Carlson, predictably, begs to differ.)

Now I know you know that democracy is not technically on the ballot this year.  But we had an honest-to-gods attempt in January of last year to overthrow our federal government so that the guy who lost the 2020 election could stay in power. That same guy is hinting broadly that he'll run for president again in 2024 (as much to distract from his many legal woes as anything else, and also to keep grifting his donors, but still). Many of his supporters who agree that he was cheated out of the presidency in 2020 are on the ballot this year, in the midterms, running for local and statewide offices -- and a lot of them, if they win, will be in positions where they can pull shenanigans to make sure that guy wins in their state, even if voters there vote against him.

So it's pretty darned important that those of us who like having our votes counted the way we cast them -- which I hope is everybody reading this -- get to the polls on Tuesday, if you haven't voted already, and vote for candidates who won't turn the 2024 election into a raging shitshow.

In other words, get out and vote!

If we do this right, the 2024 election will be the last one where democracy is on the ballot for a long, long time.


That's all I've got this week. Next week I'll talk about crafts or something.


These moments of super-important political blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Vote! And stay safe!