Wednesday, December 24, 2008

It's a Wonderful Life with the Wife

Until last night, I had never participated in the time-honored tradition of viewing "It's a Wonderful Life." Todd, aghast at the possibility that he had married a philistine, bumped the film to the top of his Netflix queue, and it arrived just in time for Christmas. The general message of the film - should there be other philistines reading this blog - is that every person matters, and we never really know how much good we do, or how many lives we touch. An easy sentiment to sell, obviously, though that being said I do think it's a good film, with a remarkably strong script and well-directed, extremely fine acting.

The second half of the film involves George - the discouraged, suicidal protagonist - being shown by his guardian angel how different life would be for many people in his hometown had he never been born. The many predicable tragedies include the death of George's brother at age 8 and the town's descent into poverty and vice under the thumb of the Evil Capitalist Rich Man whose empire is only kept in check by George's humble savings and loan. All well and good. But what of the George's loving wife Mary? Had our hero never been born, what tragedy would have befallen her? This was the only tragedy that I didn't see coming, which probably did a lot to heighten my shock and incredulity. Her fate? Spinsterhood! And what do spinsters do? Apparently they wear glasses and work as the town librarian. Horrors! So...Mary's fate involves developing her mind and achieving financial independence rather than churning out 4 kids. Close call for Mary. Thank goodness George opts to keep his Wonderful Life.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Beautiful but boring

As promised, some photos of the post-mitten-tragedy healing project:

It's the Noro two color striped scarf, colorways 245 and 268, four balls. Photographing the colors accurately proved to be much more challenging than the knitting itself. The stripes that look black are really deep purple; otherwise, thanks some quality time spent in iphoto, I think I've got the rest of the colors about right.

Halfway through, I am bored, which I take as a sign that I have healed and am ready to start the Lilyfield Mittens.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Getting back on the wooly horse

I've got a little therapeutic no-brainer of a project going on right now - something to give me instant knitting pleasure after mitten tragedy - pictures in a day or two, after I dig out from under a mountain of final grading. It is a bad time of year to be a professor.

In other news, I finally got myself back to the yarn store to buy replacement alpaca for my re-knit of the Wintergreen Mittens, but I am finding that I lack the heart to restart them. Instead, I was thinking maybe I'd try my hand at either Eunny Jang's Anemoi mittens:

Or maybe the Lilyfield Mittens:

Which do you think would look better in a gray/cream combination? I'm leaning towards Lilyfield at the moment, but I am not sure I love the cuff - solid 1 x 1 ribbing might look better.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Wintergreen Mittens

Why no photos of my progress on the Wintergreen Mittens? Because when I was coming back from the %^$#@&^ AAA conference, I forgot them on the plane. By the time I realized what I had done, it was too late. Apparently a ziplock bag containing two balls of exquisite alpaca yarn and one and a half beautiful mittens (one was completely finished and SO beautiful...) looks like garbage to a plane cleanup crew. So my mittens are gone. I am hoping posting this will help me move from anger to acceptance.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I realize that the world doesn't need another Elizabeth Zimmermann Baby Surprise Jacket; nor does the world need extended commentary on how completely freaking amazing the construction is.

This particular BSJ was knit on a #5 out of just over one skein (oh well...) of Dream in Color's Classy in the color Blue Lagoon. If it weren't the worst point in the semester I would have rounded out the look with a pair of Saartje's Booties, but it is just not to be.

Suffice to say that I enjoyed knitting it and I hope little baby Gwyndolyn enjoys wearing it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

If he weren't my student, I would feel REALLY smug

Quizzes are a necessary evil - occasionally even the most dedicated student benefits from this most primitive of motivational tools. While I eschew the pop quiz, I do give most of my students a set number of quizzes over the course of the semester to - ahem - inspire them to make my class a priority.

So, grading a stack of quizzes this afternoon, I saw that an Obama-supporting student had used the 3 or 4 minutes he had to wait for his slower classmates to finish to decorate the back of his quiz with a big American flag anchored in Obama's name. Not to be outdone, his neighbor, a backwards-baseball-cap wearing type who, to his credit, had the courage to identify himself as a McCain supporter during our post-election class discussion of the candidates, decorated the back of his quiz with the following slogan:

[name of my college] LOVE'S MacKain


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I made a leaf!

Most of this was accomplished waiting for a late flight from Chicago last night. It remains to be seen if this mitten gets finished waiting in line at my polling station.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The definition of insanity

I know that I was - er - cranky about the pattern errors in the last Kate Gilbert design I knit, but I decided that as long as I knew that it would probably mean a whole new world of pain, it would be okay to try another one of her patterns. It's a basic seduction - dysfunction - seduction - dysfunction cycle. Currently we're in a seduction phase and all is well.

I've had my eye on the Wintergreen Mittens for a long time - I think they are pretty and I was also curious to learn the color cable technique, this despite the fact that in 16 years of knitting, I have never done colorwork (Sheldon looks like he involved colorwork, but it was really just stripes. Honestly.) So why not learn colorwork the hardest way possible - in the round, with cabling thrown in for good measure?

So far, so good. The yarn is my favorite: Blue Sky Alpaca sportweight.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Benny the not entirely super Super

Benny is the superintendent for our building. As supers go, Benny is okay, especially given the fact that we're in a rent stabilized apartment, which often means that the landlord has given the super explicit instructions to ignore any tenant request that does not have the word "fire" in it. He's quick with disaster management (e.g. sudden torrential ceiling leaks, of which we've had three), and over the three years that we've been in the building, he's really developed his amateur general contractor skills, most notably during the epic re-painting of the entire common space of the apartment building, which involved smashing what we affectionately referred to as the "barf-tastic" stucco finish on the walls, hanging sheet rock, and painting over the entire new surface in what Benny said was "linen white" color paint. Benny is originally from Puerto Rico and even though he's clearly in his late 50's and has a bit of a beer belly, he still strikes me as the kind of man who could really take care of himself in a fist fight, which is why, in one of my brief conversations with him about the building renovations, I was charmed by both the fact that he bothered to note the official shade of white he was using and his pronunciation of it: "leeenaan whayt."

Our downstairs neighbors have had a problem with a very slow leak in their bathroom ceiling and because there is a proportional relationship between the level of threat and the speed of response, it took Benny a while to address the issue. I was pretty sure that because our bathtub has a hole in the tilework right where the cold water faucet comes out of the wall, water from our showering was dripping down to the space underneath our bathtub - to our neighbor's bathroom ceiling, in other words. Sometimes when I get in the shower I honestly think to myself that this could be the time that the weight of my body causes the rotted-out wooden floorboards underneath the bathtub to give way, causing the entire bathtub to fall through the ceiling into our downstairs neighbor's bathroom. In fact, several months ago Todd drew a line on the wall to chart any new sinking of the bathroom floor.

Benny stopped by a few days ago to address the issue of our neighbor's ceiling leak. Noting the hole in the tile, he did what he had actually done a few months ago when he stopped by our apartment to fix an unrelated bathroom problem: He stuffed toilet paper in the hole. Oh, yes.

To be fair, I think this time he mixed some caulk in with the toilet paper. I can't really tell and I don't want to poke it because I'm afraid of pushing it into the hole. We'll just have to wait and see if the seal dissolves after a few showers.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Dr. F!

I've been busy, but not with knitting (and not with several conference papers, either, but I digress). Rather, together with some friends and my clever composer husband, I have made my first and perhaps last amateur video.

Here's a bit of back story: Basically, during the Hollywood writer's strike Joss Whedon created a 45-minute piece called "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog." It was distributed for free for about a week on a website and then it was moved to itunes, where you can go and download it for a nominal fee (I recommend you do so - it's pretty funny). Dr. Horrible is an aspiring villain seeking membership in the Evil League of Evil; the show is basically the story of his quest to get there; along the way, there' s a love story and lots of great musical numbers. Dr. Horrible's sing-along blog was also a not entirely veiled critique of the current power structure in Hollywood - so Dr. Horrible is clearly a symbol of Joss Whedon/writers and artists, and the "hero" (really the villain) Captain Hammer is clearly a symbol of studio executives, and corporate interests more generally.

The show did very well, and in preparation for an eventual release of DVD, Whedon and his people have created an internet-based contest where fans are invited to create a character who is seeking entry into the Evil League of Evil and a three minute maximum application video. The best ones will be included as DVD extras. I am of course a huge Whedon fan and the idea for this script came to me in a flash - I literally wrote it in an evening and wrote the song lyrics the next morning. Todd wrote the brilliant music for the song. Of course, with the number of entries, we have a snowball's chance in hell of winning - but I honestly wrote this because it came to me, I loved it, and I really wanted to see it done.

And now it is!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

On the pleasures and perils of being a joiner

I'm not much of a joiner, but I have to say that I'm glad I decided to become a part of the Anthropologie Knits group on Ravelry. For the record, I actually have fundamental problems with Anthropologie - there was a critical shopper column in a long-ago New York Times that pretty much summed it up perfectly: Anthropologie sells you the history you wish that you had - Grandma's attic, if Grandma were an elderly hipster incarnation of Martha Stewart (okay, the Critical Shopper didn't put it quite like that, but you get the idea). To this I would add that the price point of Anthropologie suggests that their other major mission is selling hedge fund managers the soul they wish they had. Still, there is no denying I like Anthropologie's bohemian-esque style, though I refuse, for reasons both practical and ideological, to pay hundreds of dollars for it. The solution? The Anthropologie Knits group harnesses the taste and browsing efforts of many people who feel the way I do about Anthropologie's price point, and the result is great tips on patterns that look like Anthropologie sweaters. In preparation for fall, the group has been posting possible patterns for a knit-along, and I'm feeling quite torn. I've wanted to do Rambling Rose (but in one color - like this one on Ravelry) for a long, long time, but someone in the Anthropologie Knits group suggested Oblique by Veronik Avery. I don't think the pictures on Knitty do the sweater justice - this version on Ravelry, however, is inspiring. Basically, I think I like Oblique a bit more, but I know that I am not a huge fan of actually knitting lace (wearing it, sure) and the Oblique pattern doesn't have charts, which means that the lace will be even more challenging/self-loathing-breakdown-inducing.

As Indians say, "What to do?"

Monday, September 29, 2008

of course.

The BRILLIANT graphic is not a pac man or a fortune cookie under duress; nor is it a baby carriage or a caution against jumping face first into a hammock. In fact, it is a highly creative representation of a corner.

In India, especially in the north, many people enjoy chewing betel nut, often in a preparation called paan. Betel nut is a mild stimulant and pretty tasty, I have to say, despite the fact that it temporarily dyes the mouth a lurid red color. It's also possibly mildly carcinogenic, but so is breathing in India, and at least the betel nut is all-natural and locally produced. Anyway, the procedure for chewing betel (or paan) is to stick it between the cheek and the gum. As your mouth fills with bright red saliva, you as a chewer of betel are faced with a question which, since I am actually going to type it without clever little "*" edits, may inadvertantly bring a certain subset of googlers to this post. That question? Spit or swallow. And in India, if you choose to spit, it's either particularly satisfying or particularly polite - I never made it a priority to learn which - to spit in a corner if at all possible. Which is why, despite the sign, it looks like there's been a bloody murder in every corner of the New Delhi Railway station.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Ecce Alpaca (or, if you prefer, yarn porn)

Increasing levels of appreciation for my new alpaca sweater prompted this happy purchase:

Blue Sky Baby Alpaca is my favorite yarn, period.

Being a relatively unprolific knitter has its advantages - I can more or less justify buying obscenely expensive yarn because I go through it so slowly (witness the aforementioned 3-year-old green alpaca sweater).

It's brilliantly soft and smells like baby alpaca - musty and living, though without all the actual barnyard animal funkiness. Blue Sky baby alpacas must maintain excellent personal hygiene.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The love between a boy and his turtle...

...surprisingly best expressed in the lyrics of The Cure classic "Why Can't I Be You."

you're so gorgeous i'll do anything!
i'll kiss you from your feet
to where your head begins!

you're so perfect!
you're so right as rain!
you make me make me make me
make me hungry again.

everything you do is irresistible
everything you do is simply kissable
why can't i be you?

i'll run around in circles
'til i run out of breath
i'll eat you all up
or i'll just hug you to death

you're so wonderful!
too good to be true!
you make me
make me hungry for you

everything you do is simply delicate
everything you do is quite angelicate
why can't i be you?
why can't i be you?

you turn my head when you turn around
you turn the whole world upside down
i'm smitten i'm bitten i'm hooked i'm cooked
i'm stuck like glue!

you make me
make me hungry for you

everything you do is simply dreamy
everything you do is quite delicious
why can't i be you?
why can't i be you?
why can't i be you?

you're simply elegant!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sweater Rescue

Approximately three years after I started knitting it, I have a new fall sweater:

Prior to its release last week the sweater had been living under our bed, wrapped in plastic, all knit except for the top part of one sleeve. I started this project back when I still thought it was a good idea to design my own sweaters using the free demo of Knitware. Somewhere in there I sort of lost faith in my design vision (fitted stockinette raglan with picot edging = boring) and then there were many friends' babies and the wedding shawls and the alpaca was forgotten.

Because 100% alpaca ain't cheap, I had originally gone digging under the bed with the intention of cannibalizing it to make Camden (sans sleeves), but then I thought it was an awful lot of knitting to just rip out, and so I decided to finish the sleeve, sew it up, and see what I thought. And I think it's pretty nice. Nice enough to keep after all that freaking seaming, anyway.

yarn: Misti Alpaca Worsted, color 7300
needle: # 5
pattern: made using Knitware
yardage: exactly enough:

In other words, after knitting the remaining portion of the sleeve and seaming, I had this much left:

Rock star finish.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hint: this does not mean "do not force-feed pacman"

I've got Delhi on my mind, what with the recent bombings. Scrolling through photos of the last trip, I came upon this one, taken at the New Delhi railway station.

Based on the BRILLIANT accompanying graphic, any idea what this sign is forbidding? I would be willing to bet a large amount of money - five dollars - that no one will figure it out, but amuse me with your guesses and I'll give you the answer in a few days.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

For a change, a post that does not warrant the "gender" subject tag

For now, let's just have a posting about innocuous, pretty baby knits, shall we? I've finally put the finishing touches on the Koko Kimono from Minnies for Cousin Liz's little girl. The pattern was a snooze to knit in mostly a good way and I am mostly pleased with the results, though it is true that I am much more fond of knitting with variegated yarn than I am of the resulting rainbow knits. It looks a bit more pastel in the photo than it does in real life.

Not much for a baby girl not to like.

Immediately after this picture was taken I was reprimanded by a park employee for having draped the sweater on a bush. Because what would happen if everyone decided that they could go draping their baby knits all over the shrubbery of New York City parks whenever they felt like it? Defoliation! Deforestation! Global Warming! Apocalypse!

In other news, I am rather proud of this photo:

It's the lily pond in the Conservatory Garden, and I love it even though Claude Monet more or less ruined water lilies for all eternity.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Actual spit-flying-from-mouth Ranting

Knitcrit can only have got to be fu*king kidding me. KIDDING me. Fu*king KIDDING me. I am currently watching Sarah Palin's speech at the Republican National Convention.

So far she's said that McCain ROCKS because he's a WAR HERO. And as a MOTHER of a soldier, she totally wants McCain to be president because he's a PROVEN LEADER. etc.

And now she's going on and ON about being a MOM and from a SMALL TOWN. She's JUST LIKE YOU. She's an OUTSIDER.

And we're so inspired by her being a woman and all. Women can TOTALLY do anything! Because look at what a great mom Sarah is!

Or in the slightly more eloquent/less pissed words of Slate:

The Sarah Palin candidacy could have been a moment for women to celebrate, in glass-ceiling terms if not policy advances. But it never should have stood for the notion that the only way a woman is going to make it to the White House is if she's the best mom in America first.

Friday, August 22, 2008


(too small? click image for big)

Whatever else you may say about Singapore, you can't say that they didn't warn you

Gum is illegal; the punishment for drug possession is death by hanging...Singapore boggles the mind a little bit, and going directly to the shining skyscraper wonderland of Singapore from the absolute chaos of the capital of the World's Largest Democracy scrambles the brain all the more. What can be said of Singapore? Take a lot of oil money and a competent, benevolent dictator and you get a equatorial city with drinkable tap water, no malaria, and acres of delicious street food that can be enjoyed without subsequent dire consequences. Cabs have working seatbelts. Everyone speaks English because schools in Singapore are English medium. In short, Singapore is paradise: so gorgeously perfect that you kind of forget that it may be a tiny bit dull.

Unless you trespass, which apparently has very exciting consequences.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

This just in from a Paharganj internet cafe....

Knitcrit checks in to assure her - ahem - elite group of regular readers that other than her apartment's internet connection, all is well in Delhi. The connection iteself went down on August first, and after many calls to the landlord and the service provider, Knitcrit grew weary of pushing the boulder up the mountain and just gave up.

I might have tried a little harder to get things back on line were it not for the fact that our upstairs neighbor, in whose apartment our router and modem are located, is rather eccentric. By eccentric of course I mean completely insane, which itself would still be a manageable situation if he weren't an insane man with a vision. The vision involves merging his current business with what he hopes will be his legacy. The current business, the exact name of which I do not want to use because I don't want him to find this page (even completely insane people have feelings), involves scanning the client's fingerprint. After this, a complex mathematical calculation is performed, from which a person's future is determined. The legacy-in-the-making involves opening a college where students will be fingerprinted - then, of course, their natural aptitutes will be calculated. It's like the SAT but without all the tiresome multiple choice (and possibly just about as accurate as the SAT, but I digress...) Then the student will be placed in an appropriate course of study. All students, however, will study the art of communicating with animals, which so far as I can tell involves singing into a machine that our upstairs neighbor has invented. So, like I said, the crazy I can handle, but because our neighbor has figured out that both Todd and I teach on the college level, he really wants us to join the faculty of his college. Which means that every time we went upstairs to try to solve the connection problem we had to figure out some way to escape a discussion of what we might contribute to his institution. Which became very tiresome. Hence this dispach from a sweaty backpacker internet cafe.

Tune in about a week from now, when Knitcrit and Todd will be in glorious Singapore, swimming in our friend's condo's pool and enjoying tasty cocktails and a working internet connection.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

You maaaade me feel shiny and neeew

There has been some knitting of late, much of it accomplished yesterday during a three hour, ten mile journey (yes, south Delhi traffic is that bad, and is made worse this time of year owing to the arrival of massive packs of Ganges-water-bearing Kanwaria pilgrims).

I was in an air conditioned chariot of luxury because I thought it would be the best way to get to a potential field site in the extreme south of Delhi; as it turned out, the chariot may not have been the best choice because it had to sit in traffic and could not perform illegal u-turns; a rickshaw could have merrily broken many traffic laws and gotten us out of some of the worst backups.

The journey also dragged on forever owing to a series of wrong turns that were partly due to circumstances and partly due to the fact that the driver was an amazingly passive aggressive creature who had obviously recently crawled out of a dark, life-hating level of hell. But I digress. Look at the lovely colors of the Dream in Color Superwash, photographed in the brilliant, blindingly hot subcontinental sun:

This is none other than EZ's famed BSJ, which I have named in knitter code so that the non-knitter for whom it is intended will not suspect anything. I held off starting it until I could confirm that a stateside friend could get me another skein - a bit of post-trip Ravelry sleuthing indicated that one skein of the Dream in Color wasn't enough. So far so good, and the pattern notes linked on the Ravelry page are helpful, though everyone who has knit this classic knows that it is nothing so much a cross between knitting and origami, and so impossible to intuit, even for an accomplished sweater-knitter like myself - it's just a big blob of knitting until the very end, and then, fold fold fold, and suddenly, out of nowhere: sweater!

Pain; excitement; mystery - it's like losing my sweater virginity all over again.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Existentialism incarnate

Displacement, isolation, meaninglessness, confinement? I feel you, Mr. Gorilla. Sometimes being in India is like that only.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

You don't say....

<--"remove outer packing before consumption"

Monday, July 14, 2008

Jay Mata Di (or, Victory to the Mother)

Technology: neither evil nor good, but rather, a force to be reckoned with. Personally, I reckon that technology is currently contributing greatly to the great potential that Delhi men of a certain (young) age and socio-economic status have to be entitled, penis-bearing, big huge jerks.

Exhibit A: cars

It's now common knowledge that the burgeoning Indian middle class is buying cars in record numbers, creating more traffic than most roads in India can handle, especially when you throw in all the livestock and cycle rickshaws. About a week ago, Todd and I were taking a cycle rickshaw on a somewhat crowded road when a car packed full of 20-something Indian males pulled up behind us and proceeded to lay on the horn non-stop. As in, they were going to sit on the horn until the rickshaw got out of the way. Car horns are loud and sit exactly on the threshold of pain; drivers in their AC-infused bubble don't have to deal with the sound, which might account for some of their ability to hold the horn down for indefinite periods of time. Of course, our poor guy, pedaling as hard as he could, couldn't pull over because, well, the road was packed with cars and rickshaws. The horn was loud. And constant. So I turned around and looked at the car thinking perhaps they would lay off the horn if someone made eye contact with them, which of course did not happen, at which point I decided to do a little impromptu anthropological experiment to see if in fact the bird carries meaning here in India, with Todd joining me in this experiment.

I can report that the bird has, in fact, landed in India, if the drivers of the car behind us are any indication. So there was cathartic flipping off all round, and then our cycle rickshaw-walla finally got an opening to pull over and the terrible boy-men screeched by, on their way to wherever it was they were in such a hurry to get to. Except, amazingly, they drove to the end of the road, pulled over, and waited for us to catch up, at which point the one in the passenger seat frantically rolled down his window (not wanting to let out the precious AC air before we arrived) and shouted a heavily accented but passable "Suck my d*ck, you whore!," after which the driver hit the gas hard enough to squeal the tires and they were off in their little middle class chariot of a Maruti, frantically rolling up the window as they sped off towards Delhi gate. So we can conclude that internet pornography may not be such a bad thing, since it has clearly enhanced the English vocabulary of untold masses of emergent middle class Indian males.

Exhibit B: Cell phones

Just last night I was negotiating a fare with a local cycle rickshaw driver. It was taking longer than usual because Sunday is everyone's day off and for a remarkable number of these poor laborers, Sunday is the day to drink hard and heavy, so that by 8 a very high percentage of them are quite drunk. The cycle rickshaw guy was actually explaining that he couldn't take me (good call, methinks) and he was trying - kindly - to give me walking directions to my destination when a little group of young emergent middle class Indian men with their cell phones came walking across the parking area.

Here I must emphasize that this parking lot was nearly empty and that it had, by urban Indian standards, a cavernous amount of free space. So this pack of cell-phone wielding boys came closer, their leader somewhat oblivious of his surroundings because he, like many cell-phone owners, was engrossed in some riveting bout of text messaging (or maybe a really good game of snake. Hard to say). He got to where I was standing and without skipping a beat proceeded to push his way between myself and the rickshaw driver, uttering an indignant "excuse me," as he went. Because clearly walking behind me in the aforementioned cavernous amount of free space would have been too inconvenient. Or unmanly. Or something.

A new fearsome Hindu goddess needs to be created - one who wields a cell phone and car keys in addition to a sword and a severed head. Young men would be required to perform puja to her regularly, and at the slightest sign of abuse of technology, the Mother who giveth the accouterments of bourgeois living would take them away, possibly raining down a healthy dose of impotence or smallpox for good measure.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


I've landed in Delhi and am thoroughly enjoying the sauna-esque climate and stomach-on-the-edge-of-a-nervous-breakdown. Aaahhh, Delhi Belly. How I have missed thee.

To compensate for the verbosity of the last post, Knitcrit proudly presents a series of recent India photos with minimal commentary:

First, lest the knitblog police force me to change my blog name to Critknit due to lack of knitting content, there's been some heel-turning on sock number one:

Pomatomus is still surprisingly easy and still fun. Knitters: does anyone know anything about a slightly-larger-than-lace-pattern-size hole on one side of the patterned part of foot? It happened right about the time I stopped the side decreases for the gusset. I really don't think I made a mistake. Anyway, I'm choosing to ignore it. Socks go in shoes, right?

English-language newspapers here continue with their hard-hitting coverage of the issues that matter most:

This chicken DARES you to eat her:

Anyone else think this product is vaguely pornographic or do I just have a smutty mind?

Just in case your body isn't producing enough on its own:

Doesn't this make you never want to eat a popsicle again?

Possibly only two regular blog readers will understand this, but still, check it out! I found the dargah in Mysore that has haziri - though there they call it tawaf karna. I was thrilled to find this - it's a good story, actually, but we're favoring pictures this time, so here's the sign that tipped me off:

Dedicated and clever readers: Normally I can deduce intention behind slightly ill-chosen Indian English words, but in this case, I admit to being totally baffled. Probably these helmets are actually made in China, home of the truly inexplicable English word choice, but still - any ideas on the intention behind branding a helmet as "deletion?"

Like many young men on the street in Mysore, these helmet sellers were cheery and possibly a little drunk. Photo concept theirs, photographer me:

My new gold earrings! I love them!

Shanidev street shrine - possibly Knitcrit's new post-dissertation project since the Unani thing appears to be tanking hard:

And finally, even with a month and a half to go, I am still absolutely confident in naming this the best photo from this trip to India:

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Perhaps not exactly the rant you were hoping for

The anecdote: I'm a big fan. The tiny story that hits every level of an issue in a pitch-perfect manner - no cumbersome plot issues, no surprise endings, no character development - just a nugget of juicy multivalent goodness waiting to be unpacked by, say, a deeply disgruntled yoga student knitblogger.

The anecdote featured in this post is, as befits an anecdote, short, but since the lead-in is a bit long, I've taken the liberty of breaking up the prose with recent photos from my burgeoning collection of fabulous hand-painted ladies' and men's room signs. Professor Knitcrit knows that nothing maintains audience interest like pictures.

Let the games begin.

Today the regular coconut water man wasn't standing in his usual spot directly outside the yogashala and so the usual post-practice pack of sweaty, ethnic print cheesecloth-draped yogis was not, mercifully, in evidence. Because I cannot live without coconut water after practice, I made my way to the coconut stand on the corner near the flat Todd and I are renting in Mysore. Several yoga students were there enjoying all the potassium-laden goodness, and as I stood there I overheard a woman whom I hardly know but whom I loathe chatting with a guy I also hardly know but whom I also loathe.

I loathe the guy because years ago he taught at the schmanciest yogashala in NYC; I visited there once to see if it was a good place for me to practice and in the course of our very brief conversation I mentioned that I hadn't practiced in a while due to an injury and his eyes got this glazed look and he proceeded to give me a sermon on how in Astanga there are no injuries, just openings, and that the best thing to do when, say, one has torn a hamstring so badly that it is too painful to sit normally for nearly six months, is to keep in practicing yoga. Thanks, coach. Also, you are a maniac.

It is not at all surprising to me that this particular dude is now on an all-raw food diet and maintains a little shaved brahmin-esque topknot. Anyway.

I loathe the woman because early in our time here in Mysore, Todd and I went to one of the yoga haunts for breakfast and were forced to interact with people because of the group table setup. So this woman and her boyfriend were chatting about the usual three topics here: food, digestion, and what we might loosely term Indian philosophy, a catch-all term encompassing discussions of "ego," WWKD (what would Krishna do), Sanskrit classes, and upcoming kirtan sessions. I was attempting to participate in this conversation when her boyfriend (who, incidentally, is the son of a pastor, has "make a joyful noise" tattooed on his lower back, and in general exhibits all the signs of being a classically screwed up estranged preacher's kid) mentioned that in their last "philosophy" class, their teacher had talked all about what a darn shame it was that when the "Muslims" came to India, they destroyed many finger-lickin'-good Sanskrit texts.

Which was pretty much the same thing as pushing the big red angry sermon button in the middle of my chest.

And so in the Om-curtain draped environment of Tina's breakfast joint, I proceeded to impart all the wisdom of my Intro to Islam class as well as a good chunk of my South Asian religion class. Salient points included:

(1) When the "Muslims" came to India, they did not find a bunch of non-violent vegetarians singing kirtan. They found empires. Hindu empires. Jain empires. Empires that had armies. Empires with deified kings and temples in which the central enshrined deity shared the name of the ruler. Deified kings whose patronage of tantric forms of Hinduism was intended to augment their power. In short, empires in which there was no distinction between the religious and the political. As Richard Eaton has shown, most temple desecrations performed by Muslim rulers took place in temples that were clearly symbols of political authority for Hindu kings. The wars between empires in India were political in the modern sense of the word, and they were political on both sides. Indian history is not the history of a bunch of fanatical Muslims declaring jihad on a bunch of non-violent love-filled Hindus. Full stop.

(2) Slightly limp but nevertheless true: horrific acts of violence have been perpetrated in the name of and using intellectual tools and systems from every so-called "world religion."

We will get to the actual anecdote soon. I swear.

Somewhere in this impassioned sermon I realized that I might just be coming across like leisurely-post-yoga-breakfast wrecking maniac, and so I apologized for my tone and tried to explain that part of the reason I care so much about the topic is because the modern-day Hindu Right's re-writing of Indian history along the lines of the-Muslims-came-and-wrecked-everything-and -now-we-want-them-all-to-get-the-hell-out is used to justify recurrent horrific acts of violence against the Muslim community in India, and particularly against the poor and low-caste Muslim community.

While I was in the midst of my attempt to explain my impassioned tone, the woman checked herself out of the conversation and began copying a big list of Buddhist layperson's vows from a laminated plastic card she was carrying around into a nicey-nice little handmade paper book. Never mind actually learning something when you can copy your nice vows into your nice booklet.

And now, at long last, the anecdote. At the coconut stand, this Buddha-lovin' woman was telling this openings-lovin' guy all about a terrible Astanga yoga teacher somewhere or other, someone who had the audacity to mix up the order of postures and teach beginners advanced poses, etc, etc, etc on and on and ON about this deviant yoga teacher, and the whole time she fails to notice that if she moved her massive yoga mat bag off the bench at the coconut stand, other people (people like me) might also have a place to sit. At a certain point, another woman sitting on the edge of the bench asked me if I'd like to sit down, and, having heard the offer, the Buddha-lovin' woman pulled her bag up on her lap in a way that still didn't make it particularly easy for a person to sit down, all the while going on about the horrible unorthodox yoga teacher. I finished my coconut standing up, paid the vendor, and left.

And THAT, more than anything else, is what I despise about the culture here in yogaland. These people, like fundamentalists anywhere, have become so taken with their ideological pursuits that they do not have the ability to respond in a courteous, kind, humane way to their present situations. As in, "please have a seat." Or, "I'm sorry that you tore your hamstring."

You might at this point be thinking, okay, Knitcrit, I see how these people are perhaps a bit crazy and a bit annoying, but you seem pretty, well, mad. You are correct. Knitcrit is mad. Knitcrit is mad because she was raised in a fairly rigid evangelical environment and she can very, VERY clearly see that that these yahoos in Mysore are just as much idiotic, self-righteous fundamentalists as, say, Knitcrit's old youth group leader, whose most horrific moment was (it's a toss-up) either entertaining a bunch of high schoolers by eating a live goldfish or giving Knitcrit a long talk about how women should submit to their husbands in all things and also not aspire to becoming pastors since only men can lead. I wish he had choked on the goldfish.

Knitcrit has no use for devotion to ideology that gets in the way of people treating one another with courtesy and kindness. Ideology, including yoga, is a means to an end. Knitcrit, in case you are wondering, does Astanga not because she wants to become a superyogini enlightened bendy Sanskrit scholar, but rather, because it makes her more capable of being present, engaged, and kind when dealing with other people. Except yoga people, of course.