The Dark Knight Patronizes: Democracy vs. the Prime Directive

Walter Lippman.
I woke up this morning to the happy surprise of seeing my guest post on The Dark Knight Patronizes: Democracy vs. the Prime Directive. Yay! It compares the lies and lack of transparency from Batman, Starfleet, the Watchmen, MIB and other people you love. Walter Lippman does not think you can handle this truth.


Crocheted case for any newfangled device

Once you understand how to make a few simple shapes, you can improvise a crocheted rectangular or cylindrical case for any kind of small thing you want encased: an mp3 player, phone, cigarette pack, whatever. It's not exactly improvised, but like crocheted jazz, riffing on motifs that you're familiar with. After following these steps a few times, you should be able to make one without looking at any pattern and without reading these instructions again.

To make a case for a friend's iPod, I measured the dimensions, about 4.5" x 2.5" x .5", then made a cardboard crochet test dummy of it. I cut out several rectangles of cardboard 4.5" x 2.5", stacked them up until they were .5" high, then taped them together. That way I can hold my project up to the dummy and see if it's the right size.

The size of yarn and hook you choose will affect how big or small the stitches look, but won't affect whether the case is the right size overall, because you're checking it against the dummy as you go. I use single crochet stitches through the whole thing. You could experiment with double crochet or other stitches. The basic idea remains the same.

The easiest way to start would be with a rectangular base. If I wanted a very square-looking case for this example, I'd make a chain about 2.5" long, then turn and repeat a few rows of the same length until they were .5" high. That would form the bottom or base of the case.

I usually make a slightly trickier bottom that forms a sort of oval, the shape you might have seen in old rag rugs. Make a chain almost as long as the base of your dummy (2.5"), then turn back and begin to make circles around that chain. It's important to fit a few extra stitches or "increases" at both ends of the chain, so that it gently circles around. For example, if your chain was 11 stitches long, then your first row around should have 11 stitches exactly aligned in each stitch of the chain, then 3 or 4 extra stitches in the first stitch of the chain to make it round, then 11 stitches up the other side of the chain, then another 3 or 4 extra stitches in the 11th stitch of the chain.

When it matches the approximate size of the base of the dummy, you can begin doing even rows with no extra stitches at the ends. This will make a sort of cylinder extending upward from whatever shape you've made the base. No need to keep track of where the rows start and end after that, or to place a stitch marker. In this section, you can just keep crocheting around mindlessly for dozens or hundreds of stitches until you've made the case as tall as you want. Slip the dummy inside the case to make sure it fits, preferably after you've just barely established the base and made the sides one or two inches high. If it's too tight or too loose on the dummy, just unravel it back to the base and make the base a little larger or smaller. I try to make the whole case a little bit tight on the dummy, so you almost have trouble fitting it in the case. That way if all the stitches loosen a little over time, it will eventually fit just right.

When you've made the sides high enough for the dummy to fit inside, stop at what you imagine to be the back corner of the case. Hard to describe which corner I mean. When you lay it flat in front of you with the open end away from you and base of the case near you, the last stitch should be on the right side touching the table. Now you'll begin shaping a flap to go over the top. The easiest way would be a square or rectangle. Just turn and start another row along the back of the case. (From our example, it should be 2.5" long.) Continue adding rows and turning until you have a flap as long as you want. You'll want something big enough to cover the open top of the case, plus a little more to overlap down the front.

To make a rounded or pointed flap, start turning your rows one or two stitches early, before you reach the end of the row. This will look a little jagged (or you can think of it as digitized or pixilated), but you can even it out later by adding a row of trim. With the finished flap open, make one last row all around the open top and the edges of the flap. You might try doing this row in a different complementary color, or use slip stitch all the way around instead of single crochet stitch.

I use a button to close these, but there are certainly other ways you could experiment with, like velcro dots or little hooks. I haven't tried those, so good luck. When my final row of trim reaches the rounded or bottom tip of the flap, I stop and make a few chain stitches. Two or three chains will get your buttonhole away from the flap, then make another 3 or 4 or 5 chains. Make a slip stitch in the second and first stitches of the chain. This will leave a loop for your button to fit through. Don't proceed until you've got the button that you want to use in your hand. You don't want to try to pick out a button later and find out the hard way that the loop is too small for the button, or the button is too small to hold the loop and flap shut.

Check if the button fits through your loop. If it doesn't fit, or if it fits through the loop too easily, undo your last slip stitches and add more or less chains as necessary until you get the right size for your button.

Continue the row of trim around until you hit the starting point again. Slip stitch to your first stitch of the trim and finish off.

Lastly you'll need to sew the button onto the front of the case so it lines up with the dangling chain loop you made. The flap will hang a little differently if the case is empty, so fit the dummy into the case when you're deciding where to place the button. I'd suggest making it so you'll have to stretch the flap and loop just a little bit to reach the button, on the assumption that everything will relax and stretch over time anyway. If it feels too loose or too tight after some time, you can always remove the button and reposition it without much trouble.

That is all! If you see any dangling ends, weave them in, or do it the lazy way and just pull them inside the case.

Most of the cases I've made with this method have been for iPods and cell phones, but I used the same steps to make a large, envelope-shaped case for a netbook, about 5" x 8" x .75". I even made a tiny version with no top flap for my iPod Shuffle, 1" x 1" x .25", just as a joke. It turned out to be more useful than I thought. I slide the Shuffle into its tiny sleeping bag and then put it in a pirate band-aid tin, so it won't get scratched if it rattles around.

If you'd prefer to have a straightforward pattern, here it is below.

iPod case with button closure
4.5" x 2.5" x .5"
Crochet hook size G/4.25 mm. Worsted weight yarn.
I still recommend making a cardboard crochet test dummy to make sure it fits and adjusting as necessary.
Abbreviations. Ch = chain stitch. SC = Single crochet stitch. st = stitch. Total number of stitches for the row are sometimes shown in parentheses at end of row.

Base and sides
Row 1. Ch 12.
Row 2. SC in 11th chain, continue sc in each stitch until the end. 3 more SC in first chain. Coming back up the opposite side of the chain, SC in next 10 chains. Place stitch marker. (24 st)
Row 3. SC 26 around in back loops only.
Row 4. SC 26 in both loops.
Repeat row 4 until you reach desired height (4.5"). Stop at back corner. When you lay it flat in front of you with the open end up and base of the case down, the last stitch should be on the right side touching the table, as if you're just about to go around the side of the case.

Row 1. Ch 1. Turn. SC in each stitch to end of row.
Repeat row 1 until the flap covers the open end of the case, plus one or two rows past.
Start another row, but stop in the second to last stitch of the row. Ch 1. Turn.
SC across, stop one stitch short. Ch 1. Turn.
Continue reducing until you like the shape of the flap.

Make one row of SC around the edges of the flap and around the open end of the case. At the middle of the top row of the flap, chain 6 or 7, then SL ST back to the chain leaving big enough hole for a button. Continue SL ST back up the chain. Finish the row of trim around, if necessary. Finish off. Weave in ends.

Sew button in place.


U love remix culture. Y U no respect remakes and sequels?

If you like remix culture, you gotta check yourself before you wreck your shelf. Bad sequels, bad remakes and bad fanfic are an aspect of Sturgeon's Law. Ninety percent of everything is crap, so don't let critics tell you sci-fi or some other genre is horrible just because 90% of it is crap. By extension, 90% of sequels and remakes and fanfic are going to be crap, but this doesn't mean all sequels or remakes or fanfic should get thrown out just because of that. (Unauthorized sequels would be a hybrid between the categories of sequel and fanfic. Or would all fanfic count as sequels?)

If we were going to categorically dismiss all unauthorized sequels, we would arguably throw out great stuff like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and Paradise Lost (an unauthorized sequel to the Bible, more or less). Last Temptation of Christ. Here are a few dozen examples of high class fanfics/sequels plus some lowbrow ones: 

Not that I expect much from this Christmas Story 2. I'm just saying if we throw out things like that, we might be throwing out some good stuff. (Or we might be forgetting examples that made people grumble this same way when they first came out, before they became classics.) Also if we throw this on the bonfire and then turn back to another window in which we're writing fanfic or listening to a remix or watching mashups, we're being inconsistent.

[I've made this argument repeatedly. Thought I would dump it here so I can just point people to this post next time instead of repeating it from memory.]

... It occurs to me that this problem also relates to our relatively recent access to massive floods of info, trying to figure out how to filter it, and our previous reliance on gatekeepers to tell us what was good and bad. Part of the reason people are saying, "The sky is falling, someone made A Christmas Story 2 direct to dvd!" is because they're thinking, "Our gatekeepers are failing us! We can no longer count on the studios to feed us good stuff! How will we know what's good now?"

Some gatekeepers have been unreliable or inconsistent for a long time though. Publishers, editors, studios, deejays or record labels. Some of the great stuff you've come across in recent decades has probably been independent music that was turned down by major studios, independent movies that weren't created or distributed by major studios, books that were rejected by dozens of major publishers.

The good thing about the web is that it democratized some arts. Any idiot can make his novel or poem or photo or film or song available for the whole world. Any idiot can get stuff seen widely without going through the stale, old, traditional gatekeepers. Yay! But how do you get it seen by anyone? How do you make it viral? Gatekeepers won't necessarily pass your stuff along, so you have to figure that out for yourself.

As readers or listeners or consumers of democratized art, how do we know which things to try without the traditional gatekeepers? You have to become your own gatekeeper. Instead of waiting for a magazine editor to read through the slush pile and find a good story to publish, you have to read through a pile of slush and occasionally find something you like. This is good for you. Having access to the web and all this democratized art and information gives you great power. Have you read enough comics or watched a certain rapidly accelerating rebooted superhero franchise to know what comes with great power? What would your Uncle Ben tell you comes with great power? Not the rice dude.

You have the responsibility to wade through some crap now. You can't trust studios or other gatekeepers to reliably feed you Official Sequels that are anywhere near as good as the original, or to point out anything that is actually good. Stop whining and do some of your own gatekeeping, or at least find new gatekeepers who reliably point you in the right direction.