News and Blog
Envy and Greed Sigmar Polke, 1984
Sigmar Polke is a favorite painter from the Neo-Expressionist period that dominated the art market from the late 1970's to the mid 1980's. His work was unpredictable. He was fresh, edgy, never comfortable, always daring; his failures made you cherish his work no matter what paintings you assigned to his successes.
I like the colors. I like the gray-green in the foreground, the naples yellow background and the drawing in red and in black. You can see similar colors in our natural color Worsted Yarn collection.
It's difficult to find a small passage in the the writing of David Foster Wallace that points succinctly to how good a writer he is; it seems that his wit and its lead up that culminates in a belly chuckle began too many pages ago for me to copy.
But I love what he says about the corporation here and elsewhere. As a consolation, instead of style—with the exception of register play—we'll make do with content.
One of his characters says,
—in other words we'll have for a president a symbolic rebel against his own power whose election was underwritten by inhuman soulless profit-machines whose takeover of American civic and spiritual life will convince Americans that rebellion against the soulless inhumanity of corporate life will consist in buying products from corporations that do the best job of representing corporate life as empty and soulless. We'll have a tyranny of conformist nonconformity presided over by a symbolic outsider whose very election depended on our deep conviction that his persona is utter bullshit.
The Pale King David Foster Wallace, 2011
We pulled the 4 Corriedale, 3 Shropshire, 2 Oxford, 1 Tunis and 1 Ile de France rams from this group of purebred Saxon Merino ewes on Friday, 40 days, or about 2 estrus cycles, after they had joined the ewes. There was much sexual activity for the first 2 weeks they were together; that tapered off to almost nothing now meaning that most of the ewes got bred sooner rather than later. This is syndicate mating: many rams on many ewes.
In 5 months less 40 days we'll know who's who by looking at the lambs at lambing: tall lambs that have a black nose will have been sired by the Corriedale rams, black faced lambs will have been sired by either the Shropshire or the Oxford rams, red headed lambs will have been sired by the Tunis ram and stocky lambs will have been sired by the Ile de France ram. This is terminal sire breeding; the lambs will be crossbred and very healthy; they will exhibit heterosis, or hybrid vigor, and get to market weight quickly.
We had a second breeding group that was comprised of the best-of-the-best purebred Saxon Merino ewes but older than the elite purebred Saxon Merino rams we joined them to; the staggering of ages maximised heterosis as it prevented line breeding, where related siblings breed, in the purebred Saxon Merino line.
Saxon Merino Rams 062 & 074
These Saxon Merino rams were chosen as sires for their superior wool quality, their conformation and their size. They were born in the spring of 2009; the elite Saxon Merino ewes they were bred to were born in 2008 or earlier. Of these ewes we have an eartag list to determine, when it comes to the lambs, who's who as everybody lambs in the same paddock.
The lambs they sire will have wool with an average fiber diameter (AFD) of 15-16 microns at one year of age when they are first shorn; this exquisite wool will be spun serarately to produce an ultrafine Saxon Merino line, finer than the line we now offer. Look for our first ultrafine line in late Spring of 2012; it will be comprised of the clip of purebred Saxon Merino lambs born 2 years ago (shorn last year and now in storage) and the lambs we shear in March that were born last year.
We found that New York liked our Black 1/2 & 1/2 and we added color: a red, a blue and a brown. We should have some hats for sale knit from this yarn at the farmstand in Union Square this Saturday.
Until I get it posted to the Yarn Store you can always order a 1/2 & 1/2 from Special Orders, $16.00 per skein in a Sport Weight, 2 oz & 175 yd.
Penny knit her pull from a Worsted Yarn we dyed with natural Cochineal, "I knit it twice, I don't knit from patterns, the first time it was too large around the waist, I pulled it apart and knit it again."
What New York had more of were reasons to come here. Take for example the corner of 17th and Broadway; where now a Pret a Manger is, a local deli was; where a Petco is, a nightclub was; where a Starbucks is, an unmemorable shop was. This deli, this nightclub, this unmemorable shop were reasons to come to New York. There was nothing remotely like them anywhere in the world except in New York at the corner of 17th and Broadway. But now that intersection has been homogenized by corporate chain stores selling the same stuff that you can buy from one of their many franchises located in a strip mall near you.
Next, after the musical interlude: a reason for you to come to New York but a reason for you to stay home too.
O New York, Them Changes, Buddy Miles, Jimi Hendrix, Billy Cox: Band of Gypsies at the Fillmore East on New Year's Day in 1970 and you've got to hear them play Who Knows where Buddy and Jimi go back and forth in the vocals before Buddy's scat solo, "Buddha, Buddha, Buddha..." Makes me wonder, was Buddy Buddhist? Probably not, yet I like to think so, but the song's title is Who Knows.
They don't know
They don't know
Like I know
Like I know
Do you know
They don't know
I don't know
I have more yarn colors in the farm stand at Union Square than I have on the website. I'm a reason to come to New York. You simply have more yarn color choices in Union Square than you have from the Yarn Store. I like being what's different; I like being what's been lost from New York; I'll never be in a strip mall.
But regarding choice, the gap will narrow between the farm stand and the online Yarn Store. I'm barcoding the yarn; basically organizing it for me with 2 points of sale: from the online Yarn Store and from a Bedouin brick and mortar structure, a tent that goes up with the sun and comes down with the moon on Saturday in Union Square. Barcoding the yarn will permit me to offer you more colors from the Yarn Store—new colors as we dye them weekly—because we'll know what we have in stock and what we should dye and when.
Because of barcodes, you can stay home and order online and feel that you've missed little by not shopping at the farm stand in Union Square. Gone too will be the days, and the horror, when we sell something online that was sold out last week.
And because we sell yarn in New York City every Saturday of the year we must always have something new in the stand so we:
- Spin new yarn weights frequently
- Dye new natural and modern colors weekly
Besides the increased online yarn offerings that bar codes will necessarily bring, the demand of knitters in New York City benefits the Yarn Store customer too: you will always have a new color or a new weight of yarn to choose and you will always have fine wool from our Saxon Merino sheep that graze one hour north of the city.
And hey—we'd like to meet you—to say Hello is a good reason to come to New York.
As easy as this was to dye it should have been difficult to photograph, but two difficulties (the digital photography of black and the digital photography of white) when taken on together in the same frame help each come out better; there must be a lesson here, but not for my analog mind.
We suspended 8 skeins over a 5 gallon stainless steel pot of the black dye, table salt, a wetting agent and citric acid—in pre-determined portions—and lit the fire under the pot; we lowered the skeins into the solution, slowly took the dye bath up to just below boiling et voilà!
Rebecca also did 8 skeins of a cranberry red and 8 skeins of a stormy blue in half & half.
With circular needles the colors should coil in a serpentine fashion and come out as striped when knit with straight needles.
Excellent, deserving of an encore.
One way to tell slick genre prose from really interesting writing is to look, in the former case, for the absence of different registers. An efficient thriller will often be written in a style that is locked into place: the musical analogue of this might be a tune, proceeding in unison, the melody separated only by octave intervals, without any harmony in the middle. By contrast, rich and daring prose avails itself of harmony and dissonance by being able to move in and out of place. In writing, a "register" is nothing more than a name for a kind of diction, which is nothing more than a name for a certain, distinctive way of saying something—so we talk about "high" and "low" registers (e.g., the highish "Father" and the lower "Pop"), grand and vernacular diction, mock-heroic diction, clichéd registers, and so on.
We have a conventional expectation that prose should be written in only one unvarying register—a solid block, like everyone agreeing to wear black at a funeral. But this is a social convention, and eighteenth-century prose, for instance, is especially good at subverting this expectation, wringing comedy out of the jostling together of different registers that we had not thought should share the same family space. We saw how well Jane Austen made fun of Sir William Lucas, by writing that he built a new house, "denominated from that period Lucas Lodge." With the phrase "denominated from that period," and especially the fancy verb "denominated," Austen uses a grand register (or pompous diction) to mock Sir William's own pomposity. More subtly, in Emma, Mrs. Elton, on the trip to Donwell Abbey to pick strawberries, is described as dressed in "all her apparatus of happiness, her large bonnet and her basket." The phrase "apparatus of happiness" is of course absolutely killing, and, as in the Lucas Lodge passage, the comedy emanates from the little lift in register, the move upward, to that word "apparatus." Suggestive of technical efficiency, the word belongs to a scientific register that puts it at odds with "of happiness." An apparatus of happiness sounds more like an inverted torture machine than a bonnet and basket, and it promises a kind of doggedness, a persistence, that fits Mrs. Elton's character, and which makes the heart sink.
Austen's tricks can be found in modern writers as different as Muriel Spark and Philip Roth. In The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, one of the little girls, Jenny, is confronted one day by a flasher; or as Spark wittily has it, "was accosted by a man joyfully exposing himself beside the Water of Leith." That adverb, "joyfully," is marvelously unexpected, and seems to have no place in the sentence. It robs the incident of menace, and makes it a kind of fairy tale. The capitalized "Water of Leith" introduces an absurd mock-heroic register that Pope would have applauded. The Water of Leith is a small river; to insist on identifying it makes further fun of the incident, and the aural suggestion of Lethe is very funny. You can hear the comedy in these different dictions—and laugh—without necessarily knowing why.*
Philip Roth does something similar in this long sentence from Sabbath's Theater. Mickey Sabbath, Satanic seducer and misanthrope, has been having a long, juicy affair with a Croatian-American, Drenka:
Lately, when Sabbath suckled at Drenka's uberous breasts—uberous, the root word of exuberant, which is itself ex plus uberare, to be fruitful, to overflow like Juno lying prone in Tintoretto's painting where the Milky Way is coming out of her tit—suckled with an unrelenting frenzy that caused Drenka to roll her head ecstatically back and to groan (as Juno herself may have once groaned), "I feel it deep down in my cunt," he was pierced by the sharpest of longings for his late little mother.
This is an amazingly blasphemous little melange. This sentence is really dirty, and partly because it conforms to the well-known definition of dirt—matter out of place, which is itself a definition of the mixing of high and low dictions. But why would Roth engage in such baroque deferrals and shifts? Why write it so complicatedly? If you render the simple matter of his sentence and keep everything in place—i.e., remove the jostle of registers—you see why. A simple version would go like this: "Lately, when Sabbath sucked Drenka's breasts, he was pierced by the sharpest of longings for his late mother." It is still funny, because of the slide from lover to mother, but it is not exuberant. So the first thing the complexity achieves is to enact the exuberance, the hasty joy and chaotic desire, of sex. Second, the long, mock-pedantic, suspended subclause about the Latin origin of "uberous" and Tintoretto's painting of Juno works, in proper music-hall fashion, to delay the punchline of "he was pierced by the sharpest of longings for his late little mother." (It also delays, and makes more shocking and unexpected, the entrance of "cunt.") Third, since the comedy of the subject matter of the sentence involves moving from one register to another—from a lover's breast to a mother's—it is fitting that the style of the sentence mimics this scandalous shift, by engaging in its own stylistic shifts, going up and down like a manic EKG: so we have "suckled" (high diction), "breasts" (medium), "uberare" (high), "Tintoretto's painting" (high), "where the Milky Way is coming out of her tit" (low), "unrelenting frenzy" (high, rather formal diction), "as Juno herself may have once groaned" (still quite high), "cunt" (very low), "pierced by the sharpest of longings" (high, formal diction again). By insisting on equalizing all these different levels of diction, the style of the sentence works as style should, to incarnate the meaning, and the meaning itself, of course, is all about the scandal of equalizing different registers. Sabbath's Theater is a passionate, intensely funny, repellent, and very moving portrait of the scandal of male sexuality, which is repeatedly linked in the book to vitality itself. To be able to have an erection in the morning, to be able to seduce women in one's mid-sixties, to be able to persist in scandalizing bourgeois morality, to be able to say every single day, as the aging Mickey does, "Fuck the laudable ideologies!" is to be alive. And this sentence is utterly alive, and is alive by virtue of the way it scandalizes proper norms. Is it Drenka or Juno or Mickey's late mother who is being fucked in this sentence? All three of them. Roth brilliantly catches the needy, babyish side of male sexuality, in which a lover's breast is still really mommy's suckling tit, because mommy was your first and only lover. Drenka, then, inevitably, is both Madonna (mother, Juno) and whore (because she can't be as good as mommy was). In classic misogynistic fashion, the woman is adored and hated by men because she is the source of life—the Milky Way flows out of her breasts, and children come from between her legs ("the Monster of the Beginning Womb," as Allen Ginsberg calls it in Kid-dish). Men cannot rival that, even as they, like Mickey or late Yeats, rage on about male "vitality." And notice the subtle way that, with his verb "pierced" ("pierced by the sharpest of longings"), Roth inverts the presumed male-female order. Mickey, who is presumably piercing (in a sexual sense) this mother-whore by entering her, is really being pierced or entered—fucked back in turn—by the woman who gave birth to him. All this in one superb sentence.
*It is partly by shifts in register that we gain a sense of a human voice speaking to us—Austen's, Spark's, Roth's. Likewise, by dancing between registers a character sounds real to us, whether Hamlet or Leopold Bloom. Movements in diction capture some of the waywardness and roominess of actual thinking: David Foster Wallace and Norman Rush exploit this to considerable effect. Rush's two novels, Mating and Mortals, are full of the most fantastic shifts in diction, and the effect is the creation of a real but strange American voice, at once over-educated and colloquial: "This jeu maintained its facetious character, but there came a time when I began to resent it as a concealed way of short-circuiting my episode of depression, because he preferred me to be merry, naturally." Or: "I was manic and global: Everything was a last straw. I went up the hill on passivity and down again."
How Fiction Works, James Woods 2008
The moment of realization of Stephen Dedalus.
He was alone. He was unheeded, happy and near to the wild heart of life. He was alone and young and wilful and wildhearted, alone amid a waste of wild air and brackish waters and the sea-harvest of shells and tangle and veiled grey sunlight and gayclad lightclad figures of children and girls and voices childish and girlish in the air.
A girl stood before him in midstream, alone and still, gazing out to sea. She seemed like one whom magic had changed into the likeness of a strange and beautiful seabird. Her long slender bare legs were delicate as a crane’s and pure save where an emerald trail of seaweed had fashioned itself as a sign upon the flesh. Her thighs, fuller and soft-hued as ivory, were bared almost to the hips, where the white fringes of her drawers were like feathering of soft white down. Her slate-blue skirts were kilted boldly about her waist and dovetailed behind her. Her bosom was as a bird’s, soft and slight, slight and soft as the breast of some dark-plumaged dove. But her long fair hair was girlish: and girlish, and touched with the wonder of mortal beauty, her face.
She was alone and still, gazing out to sea; and when she felt his presence and the worship of his eyes her eyes turned to him in quiet sufferance of his gaze, without shame or wantonness. Long, long she suffered his gaze and then quietly withdrew her eyes from his and bent them towards the stream, gently stirring the water with her foot hither and thither. The first faint noise of gently moving water broke the silence, low and faint and whispering, faint as the bells of sleep; hither and thither, hither and thither; and a faint flame trembled on her cheek.
—Heavenly God! cried Stephen’s soul, in an outburst of profane joy.
He turned away from her suddenly and set off across the strand. His cheeks were aflame; his body was aglow; his limbs were trembling. On and on and on and on he strode, far out over the sands, singing wildly to the sea, crying to greet the advent of the life that had cried to him.
Her image had passed into his soul for ever and no word had broken the holy silence of his ecstasy. Her eyes had called him and his soul had leaped at the call. To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life! A wild angel had appeared to him, the angel of mortal youth and beauty, an envoy from the fair courts of life, to throw open before him in an instant of ecstasy the gates of all the ways of error and glory. On and on and on and on!
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce 1916
Chapter 4: Redemption; Piousness; Failings; Realization.