Behind the Music: Elisabetta, Regina d'Inghilterra

To refresh your memory (since it's been so long), the challenge was to find what was wrong with this program. But first, the cast of characters:

Top Left: Lella Cuberli as Elisabetta, Queen of England
Top Right: Rockwell Blake as the Duke of Norfolk
Bottom Left: Daniela Dessì as Mathilde, daughter of Mary, Queen of Scots
Bottom Right: Antonio Savastano as the Earl of Leicester

These photos are from the booklet that came with this most excellent DVD, which I highly recommend:

Blake and Dessì are without peer, without question. Blake plays the vindictive Norfolk to an elegant "T", feigning friendship when it suits him and sliding the dagger into his so-called friend (figuratively speaking) when it doesn't. I call him Evil Norfolk. His characterization is perfect (as is his singing). I've said it before - he has such natural musical sense that every note that comes out of his mouth seems natural, is imbued with intent or emotion, and he is a joy to watch.

Dessì too is a wonder, singing with such sympathetic emotion and beautiful mezzo timbre at all times. She does have that worried expression on her face pretty much throughout the entire opera, but she has a lot to worry about, so it's understandable. (Dessì is still singing leading roles today - this recording is from more than 20 years ago - a fact which astonishes me to no end.) There is an amazing extended mezzo aria at the end of Act I that is amazing.

Cuberli is also at top form, though I sometimes have to turn the volume down somewhat when she is singing as she sometimes can be a tad shrill (but not sharp). Still, she hits all the notes, has great coloratura and matches well with both Dessì and Blake. She does sometimes have a distracting habit or singing out of the side of her mouth (a little bit), which I find I can generally ignore. It isn't terrible, and it doesn't happen all the time.

Savastano - what to say? He is the weakest link (goodbye!) He has a fine lyric voice. But when he opens his mouth to sing the more highly ornamented pieces it is like a train wreck. A train wreck. The first time I watched the DVD I could hardly believe it was the same person singing, it sounded so different. His tone becomes strained and his voice completely "yell-y", which I absolutely hate in bel canto tenors, and which seems to be par for the course in about half of those singing this repertory nowadays. So, those few pieces are sort of killed by his effort. Still, his shortcomings to not make me like the video less, and I can't believe there is a better rendition out there on tape.

Moving on.

Here's the bit in question from the program:
    Deh troncate I ceppi suoi, from Elisabetta, Regina d'Inghilterra
    Queen Elizabeth is a frequent character in bel canto operas, and this concerns her love for the Earl of Leicester. Court politics and the disfavor of the queen dictate that the Earl's recent marriage be kept a close secret, especially from her. The Earl of Norwich, in order to gain an advantage over his rival, reveals the secret. The queen's anger is fierce and Leicester is imprisoned. In this scene, Norwich is now repentant and urges a crowd to save him. Break his chains, the prison will open for you as you are armed with the power of friendship. Someone who does not feel this is truly without heart.
Adrienne correctly guessed that Norfolk is a Duke, not an Earl. Which is true. On both counts.

Do you get it?

The name of the character is Norfolk, not Norwich. The Duke of Norfolk. I even looked a bit online to make sure that there was not a member of the same family of a Duke of Norfolk that held that title. In actuality, the Earl of Norwich was a title which actually did exist in England, and the person for whom the title was originally created was a son of the Duke of Norfolk. Unfortunately, this happened after Elizabeth I died. (Granted, librettists take liberties with historic facts all the time. For instance, although Elizabeth I did fancy the Earl of Leicester, and although he did marry someone else, it wasn't the daughter of Mary Stuart because I don't think she had one (as far as I know she had only one son, James, who became King James VI of Scotland). But still.)

My question is: is the person who compiled this summary ignorant of the work as a whole (so much such that they don't even rightly know the names of the characters)? Or are they simply unable to copy a name correctly? Twice?

Part 2 of the question is a little bit trickier, and involves Norfolk's motivations that set this aria in motion. It is true that Norfolk tells the townspeople to break into the jail and free Leicester, and that Elizabeth doesn't understand men's hearts. He tells them that Leicester's only crime was love, and who can blame him for that? Here's the real story though: The whole reason Norfolk tells Elizabeth about Leicester's marriage to Mathilde is because Elizabeth favors Leicester (indeed, she loves him, though he does not know it). But Norfok is a power-hungry, and sees Leicester as a rival. Norfolk doesn't love Elizabeth - but he does want her power. He tells the secret that Leicester has revealed in confidence because then the way will be clear for him. However, it is revealed in Act II that Norfolk's words have so hurt Elizabeth that she refuses to receive him. It may be that she sees him for what he is. I think she dismisses him from the court. Norfolk is outraged. When he comes across the townspeople lamenting the imprisonment of Leicester (who is their hero because he led English troops to victory in an important battle with Scotland) he sees it as another affront, that even in prison Leicester hurts him. But then he gets an idea how to get back at Elizabeth for dismissing him so easily - incite the people to rebel and free Leicester. That'll teach her (he says). (Later he tries to kill her as well. He's a bad, bad man.) He never ever repents, his motives are completely different and disingenuous. This is never unclear.

My question is: Where did the person get the idea that Norfolk is repentant? Where? Because he never is. Ever. I suppose if you only read those lines of the libretto you might think so, however, not two lines before the aria he is lamenting the dishonor he has been dealt and cursing the queen and Leicester. So did this person only read the text of the aria, with no context? Did no one proofread the program? How could no one catch this?!?

I find the entire affair greatly amusing (Norwich, ha!) yet at the same time deeply depressing. What does it mean for our culture if the people who are disseminating the information about the classical arts don't know their material from a hole in the ground? I would imagine that a lot of people who were at the Flórez concert (that is where this all started, after all) have never even heard the complete work - as far as I can tell it hasn't been performed in NYC any time recently, and I don't think Flórez has ever sung the role on stage. How would they even know it was in error? There's a lot about opera that I don't know - what incorrect information have I been unknowingly exposed to? It is sad, disturbing, and a little maddening.

Do you suppose this obsession is normal?

Rant over.

I was thinking that wouldn't it be great if I could share some Elisabetta with you, and guess what? Hello YouTube, I can! Unfortunately, they don't include the really good acting bits, and the picture is so small (and dark - the video I have isn't that dark). Here's one anyway (I just wish you could see the subtitles!) This is the big duet between Norfolk and Elizabeth. This piece of music is amazing - it changes and evolves and I just love it. Near the beginning where Norfolk is hovering behind Elizabeth sitting on the divan and he is telling her to "think about your kingdom" - doesn't he just look like he wants to grab her? He covets her power so much that it's palpable. And musically, the quiet bit in the middle is fantastic - they are singing about completely different things, he is about to get his heart's desire (so he thinks) and she has just had her heart broken - yet it fits so well (and is so beautiful). Then, the music turns fast again and Norfolk tells Elizabeth to decide. She chooses vengeance, which suits Norfolk just fine, and now they sing with the same intention. You can feel the disdain Norfolk feels for Leicester. The music turns positively stirring and has an almost military feel to it. Elizabeth will get her revenge and Norfolk thinks he's won. It's fantastic.

Queen of the Night

I've done a little digging on YouTube to share the wonder that is Diana Damrau with you, should it be that you have never heard her before, but the clips are sadly lacking. The clips are almost exclusively of her Queen of the Night (Mozart's Die Zauberflöte) from various productions, a role which she has apparently taken on extensively. Here is the best one of the lot.

If you don't know, the role of the Queen of the Night is a notorious soprano-killer. Many sopranos hate the role because it wreaks havoc with their voices. "Der Hölle Rache", the "revenge aria", (the piece below) has within it high Fs. Four of them. And countless other notes that are way, way above the staff. Added to that some incredibly difficult passages and you have a piece that rarely gets performed well. And she is spot on in this clip. She is one of my favorite Queen of the Nights, and I think I may need to buy the DVD! (Supposedly it is from a performance from Covant Garden in 2005 and is, or will be available commercially.) She will also return to the Met next year to sing both roles of Pamina and Queen of the Night! (But not at the same time, sillies.)

The dialogue goes on for a little bit in the clip before the start of the aria, but if you let it play you will see she is a great natural actress as well. (Pamina is her daughter; the Queen of the Night first accuses her of being a traitor (abandoning her for her father, Sarastro) and then orders her to kill him. The Queen of the Night is more than a little crazy, and Damrau does her well.)

The Egyptian Helen Rocks the House

Back to blogging, if in a minor way. While it still sounds as though I may cough up a lung at any moment, I am back at work this week slogging away chained to my desk and doing computationally intensive data processing - all the better to use that dead "waiting" time to catch up on a little writing, non? I may catch up in a sort of haphazard, non-linear way, so please bear with me.

I made it home Tuesday and then to dinner in time (early even!) after a bit of commuter stress (a building collapse in East Harlem on Lexington at 117th Street disrupted all the trains on the east side, including my train, on a day which was already tightly scheduled, thank you very much). The trains were running somewhat on schedule the next morning, but boy was I dragging. Again.

Marisa and I went to Rosa Mexicano for my birthday, her treat. It's quite good, a little on the pricy side ($18-$24 for entrees generally) but not outrageous, and the portions are quite large and the food is delicious. I've been one other time, and it was great then too. A great special occasion place. You have to get the table-side guacamole - again, pricy (I think $9 serves 2?) but treat it as the appetizer and go for it. It is so delicious. (They also have pomegranate margaritas - again, delicious. We kinda went all out.) Plus it is just about across the street from Lincoln Center, which is convenient. We were there about 1 hour 45 minutes, though not because of bad service by any means. They didn't rush us at all, the time between the appetizer and main dish was perfect, and we were having such a good time we had to run over to the Met with only 5 minutes to spare.

So right before the curtain a man walks onto the stage. People clap. I was like, why are you clapping people? It's always bad news when someone comes out on stage. It was Peter Gelb. He tells us that he's not there to give us bad news (more clapping this time) but that Deborah Voigt is suffering from illness and begs our indulgence (but that she will still sing, which is good since I don't think there were understudies for this opera). Marisa suggests that Deborah Voigt is freaking out backstage and Gelb offers to appease the masses. It's as good a theory as any.

All I can say is WOW about the music (so modern!), about the staging (very modern yet effective), about the singers. Go Strauss! I know Voigt is a big star, and she was wonderful - if that was her on a bad night I wonder what she is like on a good night! Honestly, she sounded great, and maybe she simplified or sang down some stuff, but who would know? Who knows Die Aegyptische Helena? Practically no one I would guess. I had listened once, on a broadcast, and wasn't really paying attention so much. (And honestly it was much better in the house for some reason - I think some works are just like that.) So for all intents and purposes it was perfect.

And Diana Damrau - I think I have a girl crush. Even though Voigt is the star I liked Damrau better. I love her so much - I can't believe she's made such a big splash so fast! I loved her in the completely coquettish role of Rosina and in the completely different dramatic, mystical role of Aithra. That's a hard thing to balance, I think, these very different kinds of roles. Some do it well, others, not so well. Damrau is a wonder, has a gorgeous powerful voice, moves around the stage with grace and ease, is a natural actress, and is slender and beautiful to boot. She will be in Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail next year (with Matthew Polenzani - squeal!).

Lest you think they were the only two in the opera, the men were all quite good as well. They just couldn't compete with the sheer size of the women's voices.

Yet another happy evening's diversion.

PS I will get to everything I have promised to get to soon. I promise. To get to it. Soon.



So now you know my geekiness knows no bounds. Knitting, dancing, opera, and now Pirates. I was watching Dancing With the Stars Monday night when the broadcast premiere of the Pirates trailer played. (Why they chose Dancing With the Stars I have no idea.) Brilliant trailer! I was only half watching the TV, since it was a commercial break, but I think I did a double-take. May 25th, hooray! 2007? It must be 2008. No, 2007! Two months from now! There may have been some jumping up and down. I had no idea that the next movie was even in production (I think I read somewhere that Johnny Depp did say in an interview that he would make as many as Disney churned out). I love Johnny Depp, have since Edward Scissorhands, which still remains one of my favorite movies. (I also love Tim Burton, love his wit and vision.) I love the Pirates franchise even though it is hugely commercial, love the wildly fantastical characters, and the cutting edge special effects. These are movies you have to see on the big screen.

(A quick visit to IMDb suggests that Dead Man's Chest and At World's End were filmed at the same time. It also indicates that he will play Sweeny Todd in an upcoming film version of that classic musical of the same name, due to be released at the end of the year, and also starring Alan Rickman, whom I also think is a brilliant and versatile actor. Can't wait!)

I have been sick, oh so sick, for a week now, so much so that I have been home from work shuffling around the apartment for days. It has take over an hour for me to write this much. It's raining, which doesn't improve my disposition much. My parents came into the city for a birthday dinner this week (early, since they will be in California visiting my grandmother and other relatives on my actual birthday). My sister ended up coming down after work too. We all went to dinner at a German restaurant in the neighborhood, which was fairly good (nothing to complain about), after which my mother and I went to go see Il Barbiere di Siviglia at the Met (again for me, the first time ever to an opera for her), and my sister and father hung out at Doc Watson's and watched hockey and basketball until we returned. Going out into the night air was a bad idea for me to do, but the tickets were so expensive, and I had planned it for so long, that I wasn't not going unless on death's door.

I am proclaiming Adrienne the winner of the impromptu contest. Sorry it took me so long... Congratulations Adrienne! I still have not picked any additional prizes, but maybe I can give you a choice. Adrienne came closest to what I originally meant, though I will explain the whole deal... when I feel a little better.

I owe everyone responses and emails and comments and packages... many many apologies. I am finding it such hard work just sitting up at the desk to type this. I haven't even finished one darn sock in four days of being home sick. You know it's pretty bad if that's the case.

Addio tutti ~


For Laurie

Because you're not the only one who can inadvertently grow produce in your kitchen:

There's nothing wrong with your eyes. This photo is blurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry.

Jack is Back

You may have to press pause and wait for it to load to get it to play smoothly. Trust me, it is worth it.

My calendar is duly marked. Is yours?


March Madness

I didn't make the first round cut in Sock Madness, due to a number of extenuating circumstances, but I did get some decent socks out of it:

Mad Cows enjoy some coffee on the patio...

Before running inside because it is friggin' cold outside!


The Mad Cow Socks were not being very cooperative in the photo shoot arena, so this is all you get. On with the...

Project Specs:
Pattern: Mad Cow Socks by Jennifer Brooks Young from Sock Madness 2007 Round 1
Yarn: Cherry Tree Hill in Burgundy and Northern Lights
Needles: 5 US size 1 (2.25 mm) metal dpns for the foot and let, US size 0 (2 mm) for the cuff
Size: CO 8 stitches for a toe-up sock, increasing up to 56 stitches
Started: 10 March 2007
Finished: 15 March 2007
Pattern Mods: No modifications were allowed for the competition! After I was out, however, I doubled the length of the cuff and used one needle size smaller to work. I used Grumperina's bind-off.

These socks have confirmed that I really do need to use size 0 needles (or fewer stitches) to get a sock that really fits me well. These socks are quite comfy and cozy, but they are a tad on the loose side, even with the tighter cuff, and there is a bit of extra fabric on the instep. I'm not sure I can bear ripping them out again though. I like the interplay of the two complementary yarns (there is no red in the Northern Lights!) Also, I have realized how some of those sock mavens out there knit socks so fast! Plain stockinette is speedy, even when you are juggling two balls of yarn!

Of course I cast on for another pair the very next day:

Can you guess the pattern?

Claudia's Hand Painted in Eat Your Veggies.

Yes, the yarn is called Eat Your Veggies, but I have another name for it... which will be revealed when the socks are a little further along...

Narrowing It Down

Come on people, you can do it:

Clickity click click for a better view!

And as one of your prizes (yes, prizes plural), is your choice of one of these:

Roseberry (my favorite), Mon Cherri, Lavender, Chai

Whoever suggested Whole Foods as a source for Dagoba chocolate (I'm sorry, I don't remember who you were!) you were correctamundo. Today was the first chance I've had to get to the store, and then it was only because I've been sick and had to go to the doctor today, the doctor's office being right off Union Square. (It's such a lovely journey getting to the doctor's office all the way down in Union Square when one is sick.) I popped into Whole Foods, which actually was a nightmare because I got caught in the evening rush, so the store was jam-packed with people on their way home from the office. And then the 5 train was jam-packed too. Such fun. But I got my favorite chocolate, and can share it with you too. If you get figure out what is wrong with the JDF program!!!

I haven't picked the yarny prize yet though (see above re: sick).

Knitting post to occur in about five minutes. Possibly ten. Because I am sick, after all.



So, I may have been a bit vague in my question. :) Live and learn? There have been some good guesses so far, but no one has gotten it yet. While the Bellini bio in the middle of the notes is very strange (at least, to me, considering no other composer is treated as such), and no synopsis of the Bellini works is given, that's not really an error, it's just stupid. Likewise, the translations of the songs, with or without original lyrics, and translation notwithstanding, that's not it. (In fact, it has nothing to do with the songs, which narrows the field considerably!) And nope, it isn't a grammatical or spelling error! So what does that leave?

(Actually, these program notes have a rather cut-and-paste feel to them, don't they? It's as if they weren't even all written by the same person. Does anyone else get that, or is it just me?)

It has to do with a particular work, and if you didn't know this work you might not recognize it right away. One error should be easy to figure out with a little sleuthing, while the other might not be so obvious (unless, again, you were familiar with the work). Oh, and I have referenced this opera before, but only as a screen shot. :) (Now I'm having you scour the archives for tidbits!)

I will figure out the prize today, which might give you a bit of motivation!


What's Wrong With This Picture?

(Click to make bigger.)

I want to talk about last weekend's Carnegie recital of tenor Juan Diego Florez. I really do. But first I feel I must run a contest.

That's right people! A contest! Right here on this blog! The prize? Um, I haven't figured that out yet. But it will be one knitting-related something-or-other for sure. (I have lots of stuff I could give away, I just need to take stock. There might be some chocolate involved.) The first person to leave the right answer in the comments wins.

Why am I running this contest, you ask? Suffice it to say that there is something in this program that really amuses me, but at the same time does not bode well for things to come. I want to share the humor, and the dismay. Also, I really am curious to know how many opera buffs there are out there. Besides, contests are fun.

The question? What's wrong with this picture? There are two things that are wrong with the program from last weekend's recital. Actually, given that there are those two things, I rather suspect there may be more. But at any rate, I am looking for two specific problems with something on the pages. They are related somethings. Sorry though, if you identify more problems that I haven't they don't count! They might get you some chocolate though. Might. Depends on how many problems there end up being.

So tell your friends! Flex your cerebrum! Let me hear 'ya!


Stop the Madness

So, Monday night I ate an egg roll that was contaminated by some nut product - had to have been because I ended up sicker than a dog and unable to anything more taxing than lying on the couch for hours on end. Then, a little work called Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg Tuesday night prevented any further major sock knitting. These two events, combined with the necessity of my holding down a job and sleep for at least six hours a night have had dire consequences in the competitive sock knitting arena.

1 1/4 socks knitted Wednesday afternoon.

Yup, I'm out. It turns out that, although I like knitting socks, and I can knit them fairly quickly when required, I am not actually motivated to knit them in any sort of speed competition. Also, I have other interests that sometime take precedence! So, thanks for all your well-wishes friends - I guess I'm not worthy. I am getting better at the whole color-change thing though.

But you can't see it here, 'cause it's on the other side - ha!

Patience, Grasshopper. You will, of course, hear all about the musical entertainment of the past week anon.


Down But Not Out


Sock Madness Round 1 started off with a bang Saturday morning, around 8am Eastern Time. I did not start off with a bang, having been sleeping at the time. It was a long work week and I really needed to catch up on my Zzz's. Nonetheless, by Saturday afternoon I had knitted the entirety of one foot of Jennifer Booker Young's Mad Cow Socks:

The pattern is an easy alteration of solid and variagated yarns in a striping pattern. The name is derived from the originals, and you can clearly see the reason. Looking good, right?

Wrong. The "seam" where the color change occurred looked like ass. That's right, I said it: ass. I don't know why it took me so long to realize that this kind of shoddy workmanship would never be acceptable (to me), but there I was with one entirely crappy foot. So, in a competition where speed matters, I ripped. The whole foot except for the toe. An entire day's work gone. It was painful, to say the least.


The moderators clearly did not consider my schedule when deciding to start Round 1 the same day as the rescheduled Juan Diego Florez concert. How could you do this to me, Sock Madness moderators? (I say this in jest - I know it was not a conspiracy! Or was it...?)

The unfortunate juxtaposition put a damper on my sock knitting aspirations, but was a distraction worthy of my time. Full disclosure... domani. In the meantime, one sock is now down, one to go. I feel like I knit this sock twice, with all the ripping action that went on. Unfortunately, there are some insane knitters out there that have finished their pair of socks. Finished. In two days. Alas, I do not have that kind of dedication.

How many bel canto works do you see?


On Your Marks

Are you ready?

Cherry Tree Hill Supersock
Northern Lights and Burgundy


The Best I Can Do

I tried to get a better photo of the Shetland Triangle-In-Progress, but this is the best I could do:

A little better color-wise, though still not quite right. What we need, I think, is some good, bright, but diffuse natural light, something that has been in short supply of late in my little corner of the Northeast. Granted, Tuesday dawned brilliantly, but was also 12 degrees Fahrenheit with winds at about 20 mph from the northwest. A quick trip to weather.com indicates that the low on Tuesday was a chilly 12F, and the high a still-sub-freezing 22F. The average low on this date for this area is 32F, and the average high is 46F. (If this is true, your data comparison scale is wrong, Weather Channel!) Mother nature apparently doesn't think we should get away with a balmy and nearly snow-free (sob!) winter after all. And this just after a high of nearly 60F on Saturday!


I'm just about finished with the fifth pattern repeat, and boy is this going fast! I know the rows are getting longer and longer, and on top of that I am probably going to have to add some extra repeats to make the finished shawl big enough, but this is turning out to be a wonderfully easy pattern. The pattern repeat is only 10 rows long, which is really only 5 rows to memorize since the wrong side row is a purl row. On top of that, it's mainly the ends of the rows, and a few stitches around the center column, that change from row to row. I eagerly anticipate a new shawl that I can wear to the opera soon!

In lieu of more exciting knitting content, I bring you a story in pictures. Mary is, in general, far more intrigued by "found" toys than anything that can be bought in a pet store (with a few exceptions):

What is this crazy neon shoelace doing hanging here?

It's so... orange! Are you sure it isn't radioactive?

I will kill it for you. Artifacts from the 80s are evil.

(A good 20 minutes of amusement passes.)

Whew, I'm beat! Maybe it is radioactive!


My New Best Friend

Thank you everyone for the lovely comments on the post of two days ago. I am not a professional photographer, or a professional writer, though I aspire to be as creative and inspiring (as self-indulgent as that may be) as I can be. That said, do you know how long it takes to get good photos of oneself in an apartment with bad light? The money shots were among the literally scores of photos I took trying to capture the essence of the Last Unicorn socks. And here's a secret that will make all your photos better:

My new best friend.

That, my friends, is not the landing gear of some fantastic alien spacecraft that dropped off some magic technology that would make me take better photos. It is a rather inexpensive piece of equipment: a mini (tabletop) tripod I picked up over the weekend at BestBuy for around $15. They had an even cheaper one too, but this one seemed a little more substantial. That little puppy, along with a timer and the ability to turn the flash off, will make all your indoor photo-taking dreams come true.

Of course, this does not replace talent, as evidenced by the shots that follow. There's nothing remotely inspiring about them. But there is something inspiring about their content.

Lovely items from two lovely bloggers.

Thank you a thousand times over for the loot ladies! First up we have the Lorna's Laces Black Purl that I first saw over at Opal's and then coveted with a passion. I nearly bought some too, when Ginny offered to send me some in her stash that she wasn't using for a trade. I love it more in person than I ever did before. More than words can express. Now to find the perfect pattern! And the perfect yarn to reciprocate. I was thinking of sending an extra skein of Trekking XXL that I have (in a lovely purply color but nothing at all like the LL) along with some lace mohair or maybe some alpaca...

Shaken or stirred?

Secondly we have the ultra-cute and superbly finished tiny pouch made by Stacey. Are you impressed? Because I am. I love the fabric, and am enamored by the "real snapping action". (Sewers: I have no idea how easy/hard it is to install a snap as I do not sew - if it is in fact super easy could you perhaps turn a blind eye and refrain from ruining the magic for me? Thank you!) And she threw in those fun martini themed stitch markers, my very first "grownup" markers. What can I send to Stacey in return? Some mohair? Alpaca? (Are you getting tired of the joke yet?)

Since the socks are done I was itching to cast on for another project right away. I am longing to try out the Embossed Leaves socks from IK Winter 2005, or maybe the Anna's Elfines, but with Sock Madness right around the corner I didn't want to be caught with my pants around my ankles...er, stitches around my favorite sock needles. I have mentioned Sock Madness but once before since I wasn't even sure I had gotten in before last week. It is tournament-style sock knitting, fastest knitter wins each matchup (though the first round is a time trial). Knitting is standardized (somewhat) by requiring everyone knit each (new, secret) pattern to specification. The only substitutions that are allowed are yarn and needle size, which maybe changed up but must maintain gauge. The number of stitches must remain constant. The gates fly open Saturday morning, and you can be sure that there will be some exclusive sock knitting going on at that point! Until then, however...

Since I haven't done any lace recently I instead chose Evelyn Clark's Shetland Triangle shawl from Wrap Style:

Lace shawl, not cat vomit.

This is further evidence that I actually do not have any talent for taking photos, just some luck. The yarn is Cherry Tree Hill Laceweight Possum. Yes, possum, but don't bother trying to find it on their website - it was discontinued two years ago. I found mine at Seaport Yarn last year. It looks nothing like the cat vomit in the photo. It's a luscious mix of earth tones - rust, peat, loam, slate. No purple as the photo implies. And that was the best one of the lot that I took. There's something wrong with the white balance, I think, but I couldn't for the life of me fix it. Ah, well.

As par for the course I am not following the specifications at all. The pattern calls for Jaeger Cashmina (80% cashmere, 20% merino) knit on US size 6 needles. I am using the Cherry Tree Hill (40% merino, 40% possum, 20% silk) on US size 3 needles. For one thing, the CTH is a slightly finer gauge yarn than the Jaeger (Yarndex says 32 stitches per 4 inches on a size 3 needle versus 28 stitches per 4 inches on a size 3). I don't anticipate getting the kind of loft the cashmere would impart, so I went down in size one more than I probably ordinarily would have. I have 1060 yards available, so though I anticipate having to add one or more extra pattern repeats to get a sufficiently large shawl I'm not worried about running out of yarn.

One thing - this yarn is dry and slightly crunchy, though not in an unpleasant way to knit with. Is it the silk content? The possum? Has anyone out there ever knitted with it? Does it soften up after a bath? I, of course, did not swatch. (What swatch? It is a shawl - you knit until it is big enough!)


Happiness is a basket full of yarn.

As you can see, there has been considerable enhancement in the stash department. All sock yarn, I assure you. And all will be revealed in the fullness of time.

ETA: Spring Knitty is up!


In the Sea......

the fish have learned to fly
on a moonlit night,
on wings of silver,
as the enchanted stars
sail serenely by.

Do they know
where do unicorns go?
Where winged horses fly?
Narwhals lost at sea
and never seen again...

My favorite movie growing up was The Last Unicorn, and it still holds a very special place in my heart. Based on the classic story by Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn was a fantastic and stylishly animated fantasy, very different from the cartoons being produced by US studios at the time. In fact, The Last Unicorn is not really a children's movie at all (and I wouldn't show it to small children). I cry every time I watch it. And yes, I still do watch it. If you have never seen this classic you owe it to yourself to seek it out. If you have seen it, take another look at the Pomotamus Socks...

Do you see it?

I see the clouds in the opening sequence.

Or maybe the surf where the unicorns are hiding.

My fish have learned to fly.

Project Specs:
Pattern: Pomotamus Socks by Cookie A. from Knitty Winter 2005 (to be known hereafter as the Last Unicorn Socks)
Yarn: Claudia Hand Painted in Stormy Day (from The Loopy Ewe) - 175 yards per skein was just barely enough yarn
Needles: 5 US size 0 (2 mm) metal dpns
Size: CO 72 stitches to fit a slightly narrow US size 7 1/2 foot
Started: 16 February 2007
Finished: 03 March 2007
Pattern Mods: None really, except I worked the heel flap on more than two needles (the held stitches rested on three needles until the flap was about an inch long and then switched to one needle) because trying to do it as written was too tight and fiddly and I was afraid I was going to stretch the end stitches all out of shape.

Do you believe?


Happiness is a Radioactive Green Square

This makes me very happy. Because, if you look at the bottom center square, you will see that it is, in fact, this one. Mine. My very own. Gets to go to Grandmother Purl. Che gioia!


I calzini sono completi.

Proper photos domani, with the daylight.


This Just In: Dancing is Hard

Vincent Pastore, gangsta actor of Sopranos fame, has pulled out of season four of Dancing With the Stars after just one week of training. His reason? It was too hard.

It's no secret that Dancing With the Stars is one of my favorite shows on television today, and the only reality-based show I will watch. As a dancer myself I am fascinated by watching really talented professionals turn non-dancers into dancers in just a few short weeks. Don't get me wrong - there are lots of problems with the program, from the inconsistent judging to the "fame factor" (which I deem completely unfair), and as the weeks go on the dancing rarely resembles "real" lead-and-follow partner dancing. Solid technique is often sacrificed for flashy moves. And don't get me started on some of the costumes, which have grown increasingly hoochie as the season number has increased. Of course I understand to make it flashy to appeal to the mass public, but really. And the constantly changing camera angles drive me crazy - I want to scrutinize the feet, the frame, the line! But this would likely bore the pants off of John Q Public, so I'll deal. Regardless, I think the show in general gives dancing a good name, puts it in people's consciousness, and gives me hope that perhaps ballroom dancing won't suffer the slow and painful decline that has plagued many of the more "classically based" pastimes (coughOPERAcough).

These days I do much more swing dancing than ballroom, but I take every opportunity I can to sate my appetite. It really really annoys me that people thing ballroom dancing is easy. Ballroom dancing is one of the most physically demanding activities I have ever done, not to mention the degree of precision required to actually look good (and feel good) doing it. You gain so much by learning to dance (and by learning I mean putting in real time and effort actually learning and practicing the art). It increases flexibility, strength, and endurance, sharpens reflexes, and quite possibly improves people skills (I know it did for me). It increases poise, improves posture, and, as a side benefit, just might aid and abet the loss of a few pounds. Have you seen the sexy bods of those professionals? They are athletes in every sense of the word. And the most wonderfully paradoxical (and sadly unrealized for many) aspect of dancing is this: with a little dedication anyone can do it. Any age. Any ability.

Pastore has been replaced by John Ratzenberger. Remember him? He was on a little show about a bar? Or people? People in a bar? Something like that. He's got just three weeks until the season premiere on March 19th (mark your calendars and check your local listings!) Best of luck to him - he's got some catching up to do.

Because dancing is hard (and we love it anyway).



I've been so busy that I've just plumb worn myself out. In addition to the knitting excitement around here, I've been to 3 opera performances in the past 10 days (2 of which were concert versions of operas, but lengthy nonetheless), a weekend-long dance-fest, topped off with 2 days in the field this week. I even skipped class this week. I'm tired.

A couple of fun things from some fantastic knitting buddies and yarn shops came in the mail over the past few days, but the camera battery seems to be dead. At least, that had better be all that's wrong with it. I think I have an extended warranty, but that would require finding it, packing up the camera, shipping it god-knows-where, and being sans camera for god-knows-how-long... I would prefer it if it were just the battery. Pretty please?

Work on the Pomatomus socks continues, if slowly. I've turned the second heel and, once I've picked up the gussett stitches I'm in the home stretch. I have a new name for it too, one that really resonates with me, but I'll save that for a post with photos and we'll see if you see what I see.

I've signed up for Sock Madness 2007. It's a kind of March Madness for knitters, and I've begun to think, "what have I got myself into?" The first round begins March 10th with a time trial. I hope I'm not socked-out by then.

I've frogged my Prairie Tunic as well. All it required was a redo of the front triangles (since I didn't see the errata until after knitting them). I have no idea what needles I used and didn't use the specified yarn. I have no patience to re-swatch. Besides, I wasn't really happy with some of the sections of the lace pattern. It was very uneven. Ce la vie! Now I need a newer, better pattern for that lovely linen yarn...

With the demise of Prairie Tunic that leaves me with just two WIPs. Two! One is, of course, Pomatomus, and the other is Absorba, the Rug. Absorba hurts my hands to knit for too long of a period (I am using 2 strands of kitchen cotton held together), but now I have no excuse not to make real progress on it! This one has been languishing in my basket for, oh, more than six months. It's time to get busy!

That's all for now. Detailed opera reports and knitting reports in the future... but not right now.