Monday, April 06, 2015

Some quilting stuff

I took a few minutes Saturday and went to the local quilt shop. I found yet another pattern I want to make, but needed sashing for it (I THINK I have the focus-fabrics I will want to use deep within my collection...)

Turns out, they had one of my quilts ready for me to pick up - it's this top. A bit smaller than twin bed size. The original price of quilting was about $60 (which is NOT BAD AT ALL) but I got a little bit off of that because they had a clever Easter sale going on: basket of those plastic eggs up at the register, and when you checked out, you drew an egg and opened it, and in it, there was a slip of paper with your discount on it. (I got 10%, which is still $6 off the price of the quilting).

I also bought a little piece of orange for the binding, thinking that that was the best color (it really was: a photo of the finished quilt will come later once I get a time when I'm at home when the sun is out). I spent most of the day Sunday after church putting the binding on.

I also worked a little bit on the new top. And set aside some floral fabrics for yet another top. And put together a few stash-fabrics for the top I bought the sashing for. I think I need to do a floral quilt with just pretty calicoes in it next. That will either be the quilt I bought the sashing for, or it will be a Kerr-Ringle pattern from out of a back issue of one of my quilting magazines (which I had put aside with some of the fabrics I intended to use).

On Friday, when I ran down to Sherman, I picked up a couple of quilt magazines - Quilty and a new-to-me one called something like Generation Q.

First off: Quilty is ceasing publication with the next issue. That makes me sad. No mention of whether they will have much of a web presence other than keeping their videos up and having a Facebook page (bleah). It makes me sad this one is going away because I think it did fill sort of a niche in the quilting world - and even though a lot of the patterns were "beginner" type patterns, they were interesting and cool and made me want to make them. Pretty much every issue of the magazine had at least one "Ooh, I want to make that!" pattern in it for me.

But oh well. They cited "changes in the publishing world" which I presume is code for "we couldn't make enough off the print magazine to keep our publishers happy" or some such. (I tell myself that I have enough quilt patterns ahead, and that there are still places like Moda Bake Shop online, but I admit I still twitch when a source of patterns goes away - or a source of fabric goes away - it makes me wonder, "Are we entering a downtime for this hobby again?" and while I really do have enough fabric to last out the rest of my life (and then some, probably), I still don't like to think about a time when I might not be able to pop down to the LQS for three yards of spring green fabric, or just to see what new pink prints they had, or whatever)

Generation Q looks interesting. I'm perhaps a bit out of the demographic (sigh), it seems skewed a little Millennial or perhaps "not your grandma's quilting" (sigh). But they did have some articles I wanted to read, and a couple of really cool patterns (the one I bought the green fabric for). Their online presence seems minimal (odd) so there's not a link to the current issue I can see - so I can't link a photo of the quilt.

There were also some articles I wanted to read, including one on "quilting bullies." The story of a "modern" quilt guild and their tangling with a group of "traditionalists." (Though I would argue that there are probably places where those two are reversed; I've seen snippy comments about "boring" traditional quilters from the modern types). And again - People in groups tend to spoil stuff. Cliques form, and people forget that "different" doesn't mean "inferior."

Actually, I think a lot of bullying - from having experienced it both as a child and as an adult - stems from insecurity. Making another person feel bad about themselves is a sort of power, too, and people get hungry for power. I don't know. In a lot of ways I'm pretty insecure about myself but I don't see how making another person miserable does anything to help that. (The biggest way to "fix" my sense of insecurity, at least temporarily? Is to do something useful - either revamp some of my teaching, or work on research, or go into my sewing room and shut the door and work on a quilt for a while or knit or something).

There's also an ugly strain in American culture that's seemingly increasing over time, the strain of "If you don't agree with me, you are stupid, bad, wrong, and possibly immoral." And I'm not talking about moral or even political issues here - I'm talking about aesthetic issues. Who was the 'best' Batman in the movies? Is Uncle Grandpa a genius of a Dadaist cartoon, or is it just kind of stupid? Was it a horrible violation of the original comic book intent that movie Big Hero Six made some of the human characters African-American or Caucasian instead of the original Asian "cast" of the comic? And on, and on. And when I see someone launching a vituperative attack on someone for having a different opinion from them, I want to throw up my hands and go: "It's a blessed CARTOON (or movie, or book....whatever), can't we just accept that some people like some stuff and other people like other stuff?"

(Oddly, this leads into the new Season 5 episode of MLP....)

You very occasionally - not often, but occasionally - see this in knitting and crochet. The jokes made on Ravelry about "baby-melting acrylic" stem from this (apparently someone somewhere was aghast that another person was using acrylic to make easy-care baby garments, because, "don't you know," acrylic MELTS when in a fire, whereas wool self-extinguishes?) I think you see it slightly more often in quilting. There's the whole Modern vs. Traditional divide. And there's the whole Why Don't You Push Yourself More Instead Of Doing All Those Quilts With Squares And Rectangles contingent. And there are the people who dislike novelty fabrics and tend to judge people (me) who like them....I think you see it MOST often in fandom; some areas of fandoms seem to be full of either purity tests ("If you haven't been reading the series from Issue 1, you're not a real fan!") or what I politely refer to as "micturational combat" (all the one-upping with knowledge and with trying to prove they are a truer fan than everyone else).

(It strikes me that one of the arguments sometimes leveled against traditional religion is that it's full of purity tests and holiers-than-thou. Hm. Human tendencies are human tendencies, I guess.)

I don't know. There has to be a balance. We don't all like the same thing. I don't care for applique, either to do or even that much as the finished product (I like geometric quilts) but I also recognize that some people love it, it's an intense skill, and some of the quilts coming from it are quite beautiful....just, they're not for me.

The other thing is, a person's reality is their reality. I like quilts with lots of squares and rectangles for several reasons: first, I just like how they look. Second, often they are better for showcasing unusual fabrics, like novelty fabrics. And finally, the way my life goes? I could do applique, but I'd probably put the final stitch in the top around the time I took my final breath and I like occasionally getting a quilt done so I can use it or give it to someone.

So, yeah. The Season Five opener. Some people, I guess, did not like it. I did. I thought it explored a seriously complex theme for a show ostensibly aimed at small children.

(I will say up front I'm not on board with the "vibrating" or "pulsing" or whatever you want to say Cutie Marks....that's just.....weird. I envisioned them as being like a tattoo or perhaps a brand (these are, after all, horses) and so having them movable....I don't know. I'm over thinking it I suppose)

Anyway. Through some various Plot Devices, the Mane Six wind up in a nameless town. Where all the ponies have weird, forced smiles, and they all have the same cutie mark - an equals sign. (And I admit, my response to the ad, early on, when Rainbow or somepony said, "A town with all the cutie marks the could that be?" was "Inbreeding!" Um, yeah.)

Anyway. The deal is, the "mayor" of the town, in sort of a French Revolutionary mode (just without all the lopping-off-of-heads) has decided that all Citizen Ponies are equal. And therefore, special talents are BAD. Because if somepony has a talent you don't have, you will be unhappy and dissatisfied. And so, through her magic, she removes the cutie marks (and presumably, brainwashes away the special interests or abilities) of each pony that joins the town. And there are about two hairstyles for each sex of pony, and the only clothes are burlap capes (Rarity almost loses her lunch over them) and the only food, apparently, are terrible muffins that not even Pinkie can really stomach. (baked bads?)

There are a couple different themes swirling around here: the first and most obvious (and the one many of the critics go to first) is communism. In fact, EqD was calling the mayor character "Mayor Marx" before the season started (when we just had a few teaser scenes). And a lot of people are going "But the show is just promoting capitalism then!" Well, I think it's perhaps more nuanced than that. Communism in big groups - like in an entire country - seems almost always to go badly. It's the whole "Some animals are more equal than others" idea. Communistic-style living does work in SOME small groups (religious orders are an example that comes to my mind: monasteries and abbeys have as their ideal that all property is held in common). And a large family, or an extended family living together, might to a certain extent have that. But the thing is: those groups are small and have a shared goal (And in the case of the religious orders, they have a Higher Power they all answer to, whereas true communism supposedly does away with that).

My dad - far from a communist himself - once commented that he'd read Engles and that communism is beautiful on paper, but human nature is such that it doesn't work as a government style for a country - too easy to see the others as Others and therefore less deserving than you. And the whole "Some animals are more equal than others' bit comes out again.

(And anyway: it's more totalitarianism than communism in the nameless pony-town: Starlight Shimmer clearly has everyone else under her hoof; the other ponies are afraid of her. There's the whole bit about trying to encourage Fluttershy to "denounce" the ponies who seemed to be dissatisfied with the utopia....which seems as much totalitarianism or something like The Terror in Revolutionary France as anything. In true communism, the leader would not be any "better" than the followers, and so, the followers would not fear the leader.)

So that's the first thread influencing the story. (And the "Some animals are more equal than others" is brought home pretty hard in the second episode).

The second thread is the cultic utopia. Fluttershy initially gets sucked in to the idea a little: the ponies are all so NICE! And no one ARGUES! And I admit, as a bit of a Fluttershy-type, I can see the attraction - I've known people who argued because they liked arguing (seriously: tell them it's a nice day and they started to tell you about how it's not nice at all because it's evidence of global climate change). So, yeah.

The idea with a lot of cults is twofold: first, that life is hard on the 'outside' but there is some secret knowledge that will make your life much easier once you join up. And second, that if you just leave all the thinking to the Leader, you will be happy.

The ponies sing a creepy little song about it. And again, Fluttershy is close to being sucked in:

Okay, I put that .gif there largely because it's hilarious and cute on its own but also kind of creepy in the context of the show.

The third thread is something that's been hinted about some cultures (I think one of the Scandinavian cultures is one where it's talked about) and this is sometimes called The Tall Poppy Gets Cut Down or The Nail That Stands Up Gets Hammered In - the idea that having some people excel is bad, because it hurts the self-esteem of others, and also hurts the sense of community - if people are more the same, people are more happy, or so the idea goes.

You once in a while see flashes of it here - the "everyone gets a trophy" mentality (which most reasonably intelligent children recognize as being patronizing). Or the school districts that make pronouncements like, "We will no longer put the names of kids on the Honor Roll in the paper" (which, as a former Honor Roll kid, who at times felt that was the ONLY thing she had going for her - well. Then again, being an Honor Roll kid did nothing for my popularity at school. But least it had people at church telling me 'good job!' or my parents' friends congratulating me). The idea being, the kids who aren't on the Honor Roll feel bad and that's bad. (And yet, they continue to publish sports pages with the achievements of the sports stars, and stuff like "Jane Griggs played the lead in the school play")

Actually, I wonder if that was the strongest intent, seeing as that this show is supposedly aimed at school-aged kids - to remind them, "Hey, don't feel bad that you're good at XYZ and your friends aren't" or perhaps, more to the point: "Don't feel bad that your friend is good at XYZ and you aren't, you're good at other things"

(But there is also a nod to the whole communism thing there: towards the end, one of the ponies throws the Staff of Sameness at the wall where the cutie marks are entrapped (it's complicated) and it's very, very similar to that famous Apple ad from 1984 where the runner smashes the Big Brother screen.)

And there are other elements - there's almost a demand for Fluttershy (who is pretending to join the cult) to denounce a couple of other ponies. (This being a kids' show, the pony who ultimately gives himself up - to save his friends - is not sent to the tumbril, but is locked up with the rest of the Mane Six). And there's a creepy, "we can't talk about these things in public" feeling.

And, of course, the Emperor Has No Clothes moment comes when Fluttershy, peering in the window of Starlight Shimmer's (the evil mayor, and right here I am predicting she'll show up again and be YET ANOTHER failed student of Celestia's) cottage - Starlight knocks over a tub of water on herself, and her equals-sign cutie mark is erased....she had her own all along, and the equals sign was just makeup!

This bit of knowledge will be instrumental later; Fluttershy tries to dump a bucket of water (but mostly misses) on Starlight in front of her subjects to reveal her. (Yay Fluttershy!)

The denouement is pretty fast after that - one of the ponies (Party Favor, I think?) hurls the Staff of Sameness at the wall of Cutie Marks, all the town-ponies get their identity back (and magically, their own hairstyles and expressions, and I predict Sugar Belle is going to be a new waifu-type pony for a lot of fans). Of course, the Mane Six's are in jars, so getting theirs back takes a bit longer (and requires the help of the townponies, which I think was kind of the point here).

And I also wonder if now there's a new Mane Four that will go off and have their own adventures - Party Favor, and Sugar Belle, and Double Diamond (skiing is now canon) and the pegasus pony, Night Glider (had to look up her name). Not that we'll see them on the show, but I like to think of this foursome as now being a friend-group of their own that, I don't know, goes off and does stuff. (Already I think some folks are 'shipping Party Favor with Sugar Belle, and I admit, I could see them opening up a birthday-party business together, where he makes balloon animals and she bakes cakes)

Anyway, I really liked the two-parter, and hope it's indicative of the rest of the season.


CGHill said...

See also "The Trees" by Rush:

So the maples formed a union
And demanded equal rights
"The oaks are just too greedy
We will make them give us light"
Now there's no more oak oppression
For they passed a noble law
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet, axe and saw

CGHill said...

And more directly related: "Twilight Sparkle"? "Sunset Shimmer"? "Starlight Glimmer"? I don't know about you, but if I encounter a pony named "Evening Flash," I'm gonna run like Tartarus.