Giving myself a little break from nose-blowing

Bah! I’ve been sick for the past week, so I haven’t gotten much done/been compelled to share. I’m currently working on Cherry, a pattern which I bought a few years ago and never got around to finishing (because I was using some recycled cotton that was extra-splitty and hand-unfriendly). I’ve started over once and ripped back several times because of my uncooperative sickbrain, but I think it’s coming along nicely now.

In other news, some of my new plantbabies are thriving, some are questioning their meaning in life. They have been almost all repotted, save for the foxgloves (I’m contemplating cat ownership and don’t want to get too attached if I have to get rid of the plant due to toxicity issues). They’re looking pretty fancy!

I’ve finally started keeping track of recipes I’d like to make, instead of just winging it constantly. A friend of mine pointed me in the direction of these biscuits, which are amazing. I made my second batch of them tonight, and I imagine there will be another in the near future. For dinner tonight/lunch for the next several days, it’s these beans and this cornbread. The cornbread is currently in the oven, and tough I was initially convinced it was going to overflow the skillet I’m cooking it in, I think it will end well.


Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

Today, instead of another onslaught of with poorly-lit FO images, I’ll be participating in Ada Lovelace Day. I’d like to write (or, uh, copy and paste from my undergraduate thesis) about Sabrina Raaf, a decidedly badass artist who frequently works in the new media sphere. My favorite piece of hers is Saturday. This work might be the one piece that truly cemented my interest in new media art, and it continues to knock me aback conceptually as well as technologically. I’ll let Lucy-3-or-4-years-ago take it over now. (Warning: this excerpt mostly discusses Saturday in the context of Sadie Plant [another Ada Day worthy]’s Zeros + Ones: Digital Women in the New Technoculture – excellent reading, if a little dated.)

Sabrina Raaf’s installation piece Saturday addresses many of the same issues as Plant’s text, but in a more pragmatic, perhaps pessimistic, way.  The installation consists of gloves equipped with bone transducers, a light box of photographs, and a set of recordings.  The recordings were captured with a variety of wireless technologies, including “walkie talkies, CB radios, and various other forms of consumer spy (or ‘security’) technology.” They consist of cell phone conversations, “non-phone, low-tech, radio transmissions,” and external sounds—sounds that were semi-consciously released into the public sphere as car radios and conversations.

The captured audio is made accessible through the bone transducers in the finger of the gloves — a technology that allows users to hear through vibrations in the bones of the skull that mimic the function of the hammer and anvil system which usually allows humans to hear.  As a result of this unique mode of sound transmission, the user is the only person who can hear the sounds produced and mixed (or woven) during each particular session.  The user becomes a master of information, a dictator of sound who is cut off from all others at the point of perception.  Like Stelarc, Flanagan, and Orlan, Raaf is using medical technology for artistic ends.  The difference here is that the user/interactor is allowed use of the technology, not relegated to the sidelines.  He or she is given an active role in creating the artwork (one might say that they are being implicated in its creation) and directly experiencing the effects of a nonstandard communication technology.

The “ooh-ah” effect of much new or obscure technology often serves to divert the user from the implications of interactive digital art.  It would seem that calling attention to this effect is one of the goals of Raaf’s piece—it produces an increase in the user’s awareness of the workings of technologies both artistic and mundane.  While the method of transmission is certainly the more glamorous of the technologies in this piece, the use of spy technology is equally important.  When engaging in conversations, whether over a seemingly private phone line or on a street corner, most people do not consider the various ways in which they might be overheard, recorded, or exploited for the gain—artistic or otherwise—of others.  This knowledge, while always unconsciously held, becomes shocking when one must face it head-on as an artistic presentation and commentary on community.

The presentation of the public in Saturday is troubling, to say the least.  Are they being conceived of as dupes, as careless participants in a system that they (or we) don’t understand, as technological and artistic crusaders, as some combination of these, or as something else entirely? This question can only be answered by the user, of course, as Raaf has left these distinctions up to the judgment of those who experience the piece.  However, the method of presentation does shed light on the meaning inherent in Saturday.  By presenting these sound snippets in a flat, nonhierarchical setting, Raaf provides a level playing field for the juxtaposition and recombination of conversations.  It would seem that organization takes place on the user’s terms, there are no foregone conclusions.  The routes of connection are left to be defined by the user and no sound-node has any inherent supremacy over or connection to another (at least, in terms of presentation).

Both Zeros + Ones and Saturday present visions of rhizomatic communities by reflecting on the modern state of connectivity, albeit in very different ways.  While both works deal with the possibility of flat organization, Raaf’s piece showcases the more sinister implications of the existence and transmission of “free information,” exemplified by the use of readily available technology to capture and appropriate both public and presumably private sounds.  While Plant seems to envision the “new technoculture” as something of a utopia, characterized by unlimited possibility, Raaf highlights the continued persistent reality of control and order.  Plant argues for the rise of disorder, of a society spiraling out of rigid control and into undifferentiated entropy.  However, she neglects to assess the outcome of what is presented as an inevitability, or even to provide an opinion on the possibilities created by the emergence of a purely rhizomatic organization.

What Saturday brings to the forefront is the fact that, even with seemingly-liberating technologies, there exists the possibility of exploitation and re-hierarchization.  Zeros + Ones is presented in the form of a woven text.  Narratives are interlaced and equally influential; the words of other authors are integrated with Plant’s own, their attributions provided at the end of the work.  However, she still assumes the place of authority and the savior of Ada Lovelace’s legacy, the keeper of she who acts as the sage of Plant’s technoculture.  Saturday confronts the problem of authority more directly than Zeros + Ones by making the user acutely aware of the mastery they assume over the subject matter sensory input.  Of course, the user is simultaneously confronted by the fact that they, too, are vulnerable to invasions of their supposed privacy.  Raaf, too, is conspicuously occupying the position of the omniscient master by “harvest[ing]…communication leaks” and making them available to the user through a singular medium, as well as by determining the exact way that users are to access the information she has so carefully reaped.

As Raaf notes, “[t]his piece permits a new way of listening.” The user is put in a position of mastery, but it is also somewhat disempowered and isolated, as the technology allows for only one person at a time to hear a particular sound collage.  The user is made to feel entirely isolated, a being imbued with many voices, but only one consciousness.  Raaf’s community is literally all in the user’s head, a figment or a chimera.

The vagaries of crafting


I’ve been riding my bike to work the past couple of weeks, which has greatly reduced my (normally subway-based) crafting time. The upshot of this is that I have much more time to think about bike-related crafts! To this end, I’ve purchased a LilyPad E-sewing kit from Sparkfun (they have excellent customer service, by the by) and am planning to make some highly visible accessories. WOO SAFETY.

Nevertheless, I’m current working on a pair of Coraline gloves and a pair of Pretty Lace Hand Warmers from the Purl Bee. I’ve been a little indecisive about the yarn choice for the handwarmers, and have actually made two, but in slightly different grey yarns. I think I’ve settled on one, though. INTRIGUE! STEIGH TOONED!

Here are some sweet progress shots of the handthings:

And one of two living room curtains that I made out of a sheet!

One of two living room curtains that I made from a sheet.

And for good measure, an atrocious calligraphy practice sheet!

Strictly for kicks, my new haircut and dumb face!

Excuses, excuses (and plans)

Due to some recent home computer brokenness, I have not kept the internet abreast of my latest projects. All is fixed, now, so watch out, world, for a steady trickle of posts.

Having recently finished an interminable stripey scarf, I’m kind of at a loss for what to knit next. I’m considering a scarf or fichu from Victorian Knitting Today, but knitnerdery has me considering Coraline gloves (to combat this lousy Smarch weather) or Very Tall Socks in Doctor Who scarf stripes (inspired by Ellen). DECISIONS. In the meantime, I’m halfway through sewing a pair of curtains for the living room windows from a flat sheet, I’ve sown some seeds, and I’ve started a calligraphic adventure. Ah, and now that my computer is once more in working order, I hope to take an honest stab at learning Processing.

Overdue FO: Papa’s Xmas Socks

I wasn’t going to post about these, as they were finished before I started this blog-iteration. But then my darling mother (hi, Mama!) sent me some excellent pictures of them in use. These socks appear to have a sedative effect, aka MONDO RELAXXORTUDE.

Pattern: Laila’s Socks by Nancy Bush from Folk Knitting in Estonia
Yarn: Valley Yarns Huntington in olive and natural
Needles: size 2 DPNs
Modifications: none that I can think of, aside from making the ribbing at the top a little longer.
Ravelled: here


Foodstuffs Are Craftstuffs, Too

A few days ago, I made some delightful food. From recipes, even! First off was a parmesan and root vegetable lasagna. I made it basically as written, but without the bay leaf and nutmeg in the cream sauce (it was criminally delicious as it was, though). It’s been serving me exceptionally well as lunch over the past few days, and I’ll be sad to see it go.

While waiting for the lasagna to bake, I prepared some cottage cheese muffins. These are serving as my breakfast this week, and I’ll definitely be making more. I substituted the tomatoes with chopped walnuts and sauteed garlic, and acquired the basil from my windowbox. The almond meal gives a mildly-surprising spongy texture, and I’m curious to see how it will taste in other combinations.

Since any and all of my attempts at food photography are pretty unfortunate-looking, I will instead present some glassware, recently purchased in a home goods buying spree on eBay. Here’s to you Mr. Chomsky, Mr. Dinosaur.

FO: Flipper Mittens

A couple of months ago, I had the itch to ride my bike to some friends’ house even though it was bitingly cold out. My most persistent cold-biking problem had been my easily-frozen hands, and I wouldn’t have time to make myself something warm until after Christmas, if then. I had a few minutes to kill before starting over to said friends’ house, a bit of fleece that was once meant to be the interior of a laptop case, some chalk, and a disused sewing machine whimpering in the corner. I traced my hand on the fleece, cut 4 pieces from the fleece, and sewed up these monstrosities. They’ve held up surprisingly well, though I doubt they’ll see another season of use. Their terrifying flipperhood does lend them a certain charm, though.