okay, look. i don't expect perfection in writing online. most writing online these days is blogging by amateurs who have not made their living writing and editing, and i can forgive a lot of errors there (not to say that they don't still bug the shit out of me, but you know: i can hold my tongue).
but when articles written by professional journalists, edited by professional editors, and published by major publishers contain multiple glaring silly errors, i get a little stabbity.
tonight, we are watching our usual first round of news, the pbs newshour. there was a story that mentioned the office of the u.s. trade representative (USTR), and i worked there back in the mid-1990s, so i was curious and googled USTR and limited results to the past 24 hours. and i found a story on business week, published by bloomberg. and i couldn't even assess the reporting because my eye was twitching so much from the grade school–level errors. so i downloaded adobe reader, pdf'd the article, and marked the errors. (here, if you're curious.) because yes, that is what i have going on on a friday night. that's just how i roll, yo.
you know i'm a big steeler fan. watching steeler games, especially at heinz field (but also at home on tv), is a highlight of any autumn or winter week for me. we all wear black and gold in this house all day on game day; even the dogs wear gold bandanas during the game. we never miss kickoff, and each dog gets a treat every time we score.
fan culture can be weird, though. i wasn't always a fan; i think i started watching in 2004 or 2005. before that, fandom bewildered me. game time was just the best time to head out for errands because the streets and stores would be deserted around here.
i've lacked any belonging to a fan base (at least for sports) for most of my life up until that point. in high school, i went to basketball and football games as a social activity but didn't really care about the sports.
but i learned some things at those games. my school belonged to something called the prep league, which enforced some pretty strict rules. no booing, ever. no making noise to distract the opponent trying to score. (cheering was fine.) everything was positive. i never thought a thing of it until i got into the real world and saw that this is not how sports fans generally behave.
i'm also a quaker. even before i became a quaker, i was a quaker and didn't know it. that whole some-light-in-every-person thing? that is completely how i'm wired to think about the world. though i'm definitely imperfect, i become very uncomfortable at personal, violent, or unkind attacks.
this, too, is something that is not the norm for sports fans, i've learned.
most recently, i've been participating in a steeler fan group on ravelry. mocking opponents is pretty common there, and i don't like it so i just don't participate in those conversations. but sometimes things go further and i feel like maybe a little nudge could pull everyone back into a kindness zone. today, someone wrote about michael vick,
You know, if he can’t perform, we can take care of him like he did his dogs.
and another person replied,
Wicked! I love it!!! (she grins evily)
now, if you're unfamiliar with vick's story, he was convicted of participating in a pretty brutal dog-fighting ring a few years back. he owned the facilities in which the fights took place; he reportedly tortured and killed dogs that underperformed, and many were buried on the property. part of his plea bargain included agreeing that he'd not only financed and knew about the activities but also personally hanged or drowned dogs. after he served his time, he got a job as quarterback for the philadelphia eagles, where he still plays.
so i read this statement and was uncomfortable with it. obviously i would never ever defend michael vick's choices. but advocating violence against someone isn't okay with me. i thought for a while about what, if anything, to do. and i couldn't stand the idea that anyone could ever see that i had been a participant in this conversation and had not said anything about that.
so i wrote,
we can be more gracious than that, y’all.
and the original poster replied,
For Vick? No, I can’t.
i have a few reactions to this. one is how sad i am for this person that vick has that much power over her. grace isn't for vick. it's for me (or her or the other poster).
my dislike of those kinds of comments isn't any reflection of my feelings about vick or his choices or other people who make those choices. it's about me. it's about who i am and my own choices and values.
yeah, i know: it's just sports. trash talk is part of being a fan.
sorry, not for me. i can build up my own team without denigrating anyone else. and, if only because i think it would reflect better on my team and its fans, i wish that everyone thought that way.
so i suggested that we knit steeler scarves to donate on superbowl sunday (or in time for it) to a homeless shelter or other organization that serves homeless people. response was good! (go steeler fans!) so i thought i might gauge interest here (get it? gauge? see what i did there?). lorna's laces dyed a steelers pride colorway that natural stitches sells, and there are plenty of other good solid black and solid gold yarns out there. what do you think? want to stitch with us? got a charity in mind that could benefit from them?
doesn't have to be scarves, btw. could be any keep-somebody-warm accessory. no need to restrict anyone's charitable urges! edited to add that, for that matter, the donations needn't be black and gold or otherwise team-specific. just warm :)
i've been thinking about bullying a lot lately. i posted about it before from my own experiences, which weren't that bad, fortunately. but lately i've been thinking about the bystander thing--the idea that, if you do nothing when you know that someone is being bullied, you're as culpable as the person doing the actual bullying.
i can be confrontational sometimes, and i try to be honest in my dealings, but i also know that i can be a very intense, outspoken, sometimes domineering person, qualities that i've been working hard to moderate in the past couple of decades. part of that work involves embracing the art of the unspoken opinion. everyone doesn't have to know my every thought all the time. (if you're wondering how i still manage to express so damned much, just tell yourself that i have a lot of thoughts and opinions. imagine how many there must be if i'm holding back and still say so much!)
anyway, i've been reading a forum on ravelry about the closing of one of my favorite yarn shops to visit when out of town: threadbear. apparently, the owner owed a bunch of back rent, so the place was seized, along with everything in it. former employees are owed paychecks that they'll apparently never see, and customers have gift cards and store credit that is just gone. i'm out $20 that way, but that's my own fault for forgetting to take the card with me last time i visited.
so a lot of people are really bitter about this. really angry. i can totally see why. but some of the expressions of that anger are coming across, imo, as the sort of thing that could pile up into the owner--a tender man i don't know well but who is apologetic for his role in the closure of the shop--as bullying. one angry comment, no matter how mean, isn't necessarily bullying. but a lot of mean comments piling up against one person, especially those that are full of blame and personal attacks, seem to me to be cruel.
whether it's intended as bullying or just venting or seeking a solution, there are ways to express one's feelings, no matter how negative, that would not add to the person who is the object (in this case, the yarn-shop owner, rob) feeling worse about himself. if enough of those bad feelings pile up, it's (imo) like driving a nail. it doesn't just take one hard thump to pound it flat; sometimes, it's a series of battering whaps that ends up with the nail sunk beneath the surface, beyond being pulled back up.
those are the times i think that people attempt suicide. or run away from home. or just sink into depression. those comments certainly aren't sufficient cause for anyone to do any of those things. but they can contribute. and depending on the makeup of the nail and the material into which it's being pounded, and the hardness of the hammer and the nature of the swing, they can do a lot of damage.
so i'm thinking. i don't need to defend the actions of someone who's being criticized in order to protest the kinds of swings that can drive the nail down. i'm not sure what to do in this particular situation; i don't want to be or appear self-righteous or scolding. but i do not want to be a bystander.
at least, i think that's how pooh spelled it. wobbly and all.
and a hpapy bithday it has been indeed. lots and lots of good wishes from friends here and far, productive errands to start the day, fun knitting time at the shop, a catnap, and a fabulous dinner out with my guy. knitting time was extra-awesome thanks to the visit of eight-year-old amanda, a new knitter, with her four-year-old sister lucy and their mother. amanda sat beside me for a nice chunk of time and practiced her knitting in "her blue": hawaiian blue. adorable. lots of stories, smart and funny girl. the kind i'd want to have if i had a daughter. my favorite thing she said, i think, was "this is my favorite yarn store. everyone is so nice. <thinkthink> i think, if i ever go to another yarn store, i'll still think this is my favorite and first. well, it'll still be my first, but i hope it's still my favorite." squeezeyay.
my favorite remark of my own of the day: on the way to eleven for dinner, i said to smartboy that my favorite thing about taking off on a friday was that it felt like saturday so, when it was all over, you felt like you'd had a three-day weekend.
rather than tell you what smartboy replied, i'll let you fill in your own reaction as that sinks in. i'm sure they will be similar.
dinner was teh yum. the amuse-bouche was a tiny little grilled cheese sandwich made with pleasant ridge cheese, morels, and pesto. teeny tiny crispy good. then we had a couple of cheeses for appetizers; the triple cream was as smooth and mild as it sounds. yum-o. i had a mesclun salad with a goat-cheese dressing—i don't care for goat cheese, but i must have accidentally ordered the wrong thing. it was still really good. then came the vichyssoise, to which i'd looked forward for days, and it was every bit as delicious as i'd hoped. i don't know why it's not on every summer menu—it's cheap and easy to make, hard to screw up, yummy, and cool and soothing summer food. eleven makes its with tiny crisps of fingerling potatoes, adding a wonderful saltiness. and of course i saved room for dessert, which was a s'more, eleven style. this meant a thick graham-cracker triangle on a plate drizzled with chocolate sauce, with a small scoop of marshmallow ice cream on it and a cut-out of the same cracker atop that. scattered across the plate were a few truffle-looking scoops of some kind of chocolate ice cream—so good—but the best part (elbowing space with the vichyssoise for best part of the meal) was the homemade marshmallow, a heavenly, creamy sploosh about the size of a lime, browned perfectly with a torch. as andrew put it, it was like the best part of a toasted marshmallow: not the black char, just the creamy part and the brown crispy part. definitely not your run-of-the-mill jet-puft.
oh: another favorite of the day was a sign outside big mama's. the chalkboard sidewalk sign read,
peach cobbler $3.50 parking $45.00 total $48.50.
(big mama's is a barbecue joint a few blocks from downtown.)
anyway, tomorrow is lots of cleaning and houseworky kinds of things that should be very gratifying. plus knitting, because i have a lot of that to do. and it'll feel like i had a three-day weekend to do it.
p.s. dan abrams is hot. he makes the ridiculosity of michael jackson coverage much more pleasant. that is all.
okay. it is sad when someone dies. it was sad when neda was killed. it was sad when ed mcmahon died. it was sad when farrah died. it was sad when michael jackson died. death is sad. but (a) one celebrity's death does not need to dominate the news *all night long* in lieu of other world events, and (2) if you're going to spend all night covering celebrity death, at *least* give farrah as much time and reverence as you're giving michael. come on.
i have lots of parents. two birth, two step, and two in law. i should have done this on mother's day, too, but i'll try to make up for it here.
my mother and i have our difficulties, but she really is a wonderful woman in so many ways. she sacrifices for those she loves—most recently, the years she's spending nursing my ailing, elderly stepfather through his deteriorating physical and mental health. when i was younger, i was so grateful that she had such great skin; i seemed to have inherited it, but i fear that i haven't taken very good care of this gift and don't predict aging as well as this. for all the pain in her heart, i am so, so sad. i hope that she finds some peace.
i wrote on veterans' day about my stepfather, jerry. what a character. he already looked terrible at the wedding, in september 2005; he'd been diagnosed early that year with alzheimer's, but before that, he had been vibrant, funny, and full of good stories. i miss him.
then there's my own dad.
you might be thinking, "how unfortunate that the photographer gave him that crazy look in his eye." you'd be wrong. that's how he always looks. growing up, i heard him get called "groucho" a lot, but i always thought he looked a lot more like einstein than marx. but he really does make me laugh. a lot. you can see that i look a lot like him—i've inherited his crazy white hair, his curls, and, of course, his nose. and i either inherited or learned his sense of humor and his sailor's mouth.
and my stepmother has been with us since i was in college.
this isn't at all how i picture her. i think i've seen her in a dress like four times, ever, if that. usually i picture her in scrubs (she's an ob/gyn) or in sweats or pjs (since she's always on a freaky sleep schedule, being a doc who delivers babies who are rude enough to insist on pressing into the world at all hours) or in hockey gear. but i do always picture her smiling and talking; she, like my dad and me, is full of opinions, and the house is always full of lively conversation and debate. i love that. she's also big into entertaining—one of my favorite things about life at their house is the sheer number of people who come and go, especially for holidays and celebrations. always tons of food, and never the kinds of stuff i'd expect to be helping to make. and lots of cultures—our friends anna (russian) and vijay (indian), handan (turkish) and everette (virginian), and nathan's birth family are always representing.
and my newest parents are a complete grand prize for me: my mother- and father-in-law.
rudy was a monk before he married my mother-in-law back in 1962. (i remember their marriage year easily because of this awesome, dated painting that hangs in their bathroom.) he remains one of the most thoughtful people i know, in both senses of that word. i am so grateful that we didn't lose him a few years ago to some nasty complications from bypass surgery. he is smiling in this photo, if you can't tell; he adores nancy, and the house is always full of laughter and smiles (and opinions and stories—i love that there, too). nancy is a talker and has an easy laugh; we (half) joke that andrew married someone exactly like his mother. it really is kind of scary; it's a good thing that i love her so much.
these are my parents, all six of them, in different ways, of whom i think on days like mother's day and father's day. and lots of other days. i am so, so lucky to have all of them.
so, when i hear and see the news about what is happening in iran this week, i am all the more grateful that my parents are not likely to be shot in the streets, that they can speak their minds freely, and that they do not need to watch me die in the street from government-ordered gunfire. i am heartbroken for the parents risking—and some losing—their lives, their health, their jobs, their livelihoods; for the children they may lead behind; for the parents who may have to nurse their children back to health, guard them from danger in the street or their homes, or mourn them, maybe even having watched them die. i cannot imagine anything worse. please hold these parents in the light today and every day until they have peace.