Winter Knitting

This winter I'm re-learning how to knit. It's a very forgiving hobby, even if you're a beginner like me. It's also a hobby for giving, for making something with someone else in mind. (Note to self: start before the holidays next time.) Stitches are steady, repetitive, metronomic, maybe even meditative. There's something reassuring in the quiet tick, tick of two wooden needles crossing. And if you mess up, just unravel and start again. 

The project I'm working on right now is a striped baby blanket based on this pattern, which requires minimal knitting knowledge - casting on, garter stitch, changing colors, casting off. To refresh my memory on the basics, I've watched YouTube tutorials galore. YouTube the aforementioned steps and you'll be on your way. I also recommend the book Stitch n' Bitch as an extra (hilarious) reference, complete with projects like "Wonder Woman Bikini" and headings like "Oops, I Knit It Again." This book was my first knitting companion and saw my teenage self through several gaudy, half-finished scarves. 

Why knit a garment when you can buy one for less time and money? Besides the therapeutic and sentimental reasons, it's a good pace-changing exercise in a world of fast, disposable fashion. The whole process makes me more attuned to where the materials are coming from and how long it takes to create knitwear by hand. I value the finished product more because I put my own time and effort into it. Also, knitting has helped me break my terrible habit of double-screen multitasking (you know, doing stuff on your laptop while watching Netflix on your TV...); because this project is so uncomplicated, I can do it as a side task without feeling like my attention is divided. 

Do you knit? 

A Streetcar Named Desire

One of the best moments of the Golden Globes last night was Maggie Gyllenhaal's acceptance speech, in which she praised modern filmmakers for turning the spotlight towards "actual women": "women who are sometimes powerful and sometimes not, sometimes sexy and sometimes not, sometimes honorable and sometimes not." She told Time magazine that her role in The Honorable Woman as a woman who fears letting down her facades is "something that all human beings can relate to: performing themselves, thinking they’re supposed to be a kind of fantasy of what they imagined they were going to be." 

I recently read Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire, and that urge to "perform ourselves" is the central trait of the play's less than honorable antihero Blanche DuBois. Blanche is a fading Southern belle who initiates a triangle of tensions when she visits her sister Stella and Stella's rough, blue-collar husband Stanley. Condescending and pretentious, Blanche berates Stanley as a poor match for the DuBois family's gentile origins. Blanche's luxurious clothing and exaggerated tales of romance mask her loneliness, insecurities, and tumultuous personal history. Blanche is one of the most coveted and complicated female theatrical roles. Cate Blanchett played Blanche before starring in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine, which takes direct inspiration from Williams's play. Notable actresses to take on the role of Blanche also include Vivien Leigh, Rachel Weisz and Jessica Lange. 

What makes Blanche relevant to human struggles is that she insists on performing herself, even though she is aware of her self-delusion. Blanche desperately clings to an idealized version of her life and leads others to believe in the fantasies that she constructs. She ultimately holds a mirror to the other characters and reveals the necessity of living with fictions that protect against truths that are too hard to bear. Do we blame her for her failure to face reality, or do we relate to it? 

"I don't want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don't tell truth, I tell what ought to be truth."

A Streetcar Named Desire is a polarizing text: interpretations diverge on how much sympathy each character, especially Blanche, warrants. The characters are varying shades of vulnerable, tender, dishonest, and manipulative, and it can be uncomfortable when one of them ends up winning your sympathy. If you haven't read the play, I highly recommend it. 

The Letters Project

This year, I want to write more letters. I rarely write them anymore. In fact, the last letter I wrote was on behalf of someone else, a chipper piece of ghostwriting that was strangely reminiscent of the movie Her. I am thankful that technology connects me to vast numbers of people and allows me to keep up in "real time" with friends in faraway places. At the same time, I am painfully aware that it makes for more superficial connections. Hence, a revival of the letter as an art, genre, and medium: a more personal and tangible form of communication. I've been reading published letters from writers and other interesting people (the anthology Letters of Note is a great place to start), and some of them linger in my mind for weeks. They range from poignant to comedic, convincing to reassuring. They have all the best traits of personal writing: they tell stories and reveal vulnerabilities and forge deep connections between individuals.

This resolution goes hand in hand with a project for this space. I will be writing and posting a letter here each week. I have some ideas for how they will work, but I intend for them to be spontaneous and diaristic and maybe open up conversations. Of course, there are huge differences between blogs and letters. Blogging is boundlessly public; letters are often private and intimate. Posting online is instantaneous; we post letters and wait for responses. But when the seed of this idea entered my mind, I was thinking back on the initial purpose of my blog, and it had essentially the same purpose as letters: to keep in touch

Happy New Year

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season, and I'm wishing you all the best for 2015. I took some time to unplug during the holidays, and now I'm feeling rejuvenated and ready to approach this space with fresh ideas. I'll be the first to admit that blogging felt forced at times last year, and it's only in the last month that I've figured out what I want to achieve through this space. From this point forward, Ellalogy will be my creative journal. I'll be sharing more of what inspires me and shapes my perspectives. "Will people like this?" is no longer going to be a question that dictates what I post. I hope to find greater synchrony between creating for myself and creating for others.

As always, I am so very grateful for your kindness and support. Onwards!