Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Spent some time last night on another project I've been pushing to the end of the priority list: garb for Pennsic. Last week in Rochester, I spent some time at JoAnn Fabric, and purchased some lovely light cotton fabric in light navy blue and golden yellow, with a self-edging of decorative gold threads. After determining that there wasn't enough of the blue to make a whole garment, I decided to particolor them both into the same garment, which is now officially going to be a loose caftan (basically, a tabard with the sides sewn shut) to go over a medieval chemise. The sides and front feature the self-edging, and there is no closure (maybe I'll make a kumihimo belt for it?). This will be my hot-weather garb. Now I need to either make or purchase the chemise. It's SOOOOO expensive at Chivalry Sports...but will I make one in time for Pennsic? It remains to be seen.

All I know is, I'm not going to be making a heroic effort to have Middle Eastern garb ready for W&W. I like Her Highness Leyla a lot, but my garb (and, increasingly, my persona) is important enough to me that I'm not changing it for the whim of one reign. Personally I don't really understand the appeal of the whole Middle Eastern thing. Oooh, isn't it exciting, an exotic place with hot weather where people eat figs and drink sekanjabin and kill people for petty crimes and oppress women. Whoopee. Give me France in the High Medieval period any day. (I realize this sounds glib. Cut me some slack--I'm pre-menstrual.)

Saturday, June 23, 2001

What a very pleasant Saturday. I went over to Sarra's today and in under an hour (not bad for the first time!), we put up our new Teton Tent. Although the shape is not period, and the canvas is more cream-colored than white, when it comes to quality and usability I am pretty happy with it. It's spacious, lets in plenty of light, has nice triangle-shaped windows for ventilation, and the sewing overall seems to be pretty competent (not wonderful, but competent). The owner of Kwik Kamp told me this was to be among the first of the Teton Tents made in China. Quite frankly, you can tell, from the sewing mistakes here and there, and the slightly loose seams, as though they are using too big of a needle for the thread. (Then again, that's why we wet it down today: to make the thread swell into place in the seams. So that may not be a problem.) But I couldn't see anything that looked or acted weak, certainly no holes or mis-sewings.

The acid test will be W & W (it is NOT coming to Pennsic), but it passed the hose test today, surviving a ten-minute deluge from the hose/sprayer attachment with not a single drop getting inside. Granted, when it rains at W & W it is seldom as quick as ten minutes. (It was about ten minutes at Spring Fling, though.)

Sarra agrees we should paint it. After some checking on the Florilegium, where there is (of course) an entire section of information on painting one's tent in the SCA, I have decided on using Versatex paints. No running colors, and no rubbery coating on the surface of the fabric, to impede the natural reaction of the fibers to moisture. Still thinking about what to paint on it.

After the tent was pitched and we had admired it for awhile, and selected which side of the tent belongs to each of us (I get the right-hand side), I left and went to lunch at Fazoli's, then shopping at Michael's, where I was looking for supplies for banners for the sewing moot tomorrow (mostly paint and stencil/stamp materials). Of course I found other things: rayon floss on sale for use in my new kumihimo projects, and a cheap wooden stool, with a perfectly square top large enough for even my butt ;) , and paints for it. I figure I'll woodburn it and then paint and seal it, and use it if Owen ever asks me to stand in as Bard of the Northshield again (or if I am ever asked to fill that position myself). In the meantime it will go into the A&S Challenge at Poor Man's and Autumn Rose.

Friday, June 22, 2001

Yesterday, after much confusion over when and where it would be delivered, I finally received my Teton Tent from Kwik Kamp. It was supposed to be here in time to use for Spring Fling, but that didn't happen. I guess I can't blame the company; these things happen. But it would have been nice to have some warning.

Anyway, I wish I could say it's beautiful, gorgeous, perfect, but right now it's all those things (and no doubt other things) inside a very large blue woven plastic bag, sealed up with wire, sitting in the back seat of my car, because I can't lift it. The webpage claims the tent is 27 lbs. and the pole set an additional 6. Either I am really bad at estimating weights (and apparently experiencing muscle weakness), or this baby weighs a great deal more than 33 lbs., because I can't lift the thing. I used a cart to get it out to my car and could barely lift it into the vehicle. Sarra and I together will probably not have a big problem, but my plan is to split it into two parcels as soon as possible, because Sarra will not always be with me when it's time to set it up.

I'm bringing it to Sarra's tomorrow at 10 am and we're going to set it up, wet it down with a hose so the seams can swell together, and leave it up until after the sewing moot in Ettrick on Sunday. The owner recommended doing this before use, to help assure the integrity of the seams. Hey, anything to keep from getting rained on in my own tent...

Seriously, I can't wait to have a good usable tent that will last a little while. I am considering how to paint it; my device hasn't even been submitted, much less passed, but then my heraldry doesn't have to be official to paint it on something, I guess. I would just hate for it not to pass, and for me to be stuck with a long-lived tent with the wrong device on it. I am thinking I'll paint blue stripes on just the 2-ft-high side walls, and wait on the gillyflower(s) until the device passes; I can always paint them later. Perhaps I will go a little nuts and do modeled gold filigree along the edges of the sides--that's not a heraldic thing, just a decoration. Then, when I feel more ambitious, one of those big blue/white/red shaded flowers like the pendants from Fire Mountain that I gave out at 12th Night this year, and like the embroidered napkin Sarra did for me in imitation of the pendants. That'd be gorgeous...

Now I just have to find out what kind of paint to use. The owner's suggestion of matte outdoor latex falls a little bit flat in the context of medieval re-creation. ;)

Thursday, June 21, 2001
Apologies for the decreasing frequency of my blogs. Maybe I should have a policy of only telling part of a story, or reporting on selected parts of events, then coming back to complete it the next day, rather than leaving a book-sized entry and then not writing for four days. It would certainly space out the work...not that I consider this work. ;)

A restaurant plug: Kristen and I finally went to Traditions, up in Onalaska, last night. We'd been intending on going there for our birthdays in December, but somehow that never happened. I have only praise for Traditions. It's a cute little place, maybe eight tables (one of which is nestled in a bank vault, making use of the old bank building's features), with a stamped metal ceiling and sweetbriar vines everywhere, and a smallish selection of entrees/appetizers, on a menu that changes every two weeks. I had quail and beef in a wine sauce, served with sauteed fresh vegetables, rice pilaf that did NOT taste like it was out of a box, and a fresh salad. The quail was stuffed with some kind of, well, hachee (the French word for "we're not sure what's in it but it's all chopped up real good") involving pine nuts; there wasn't much meat, of course, but what there was was good. (In fact the meat was delicious, but I thought it tasted a bit too salty for it to have been fresh meat that morning. Is is possible to get canned quail?) We also tried the cream of carrot soup with almonds, which was unbelievably rich (it had to be at least 50% whipping cream) and stunningly good. We passed up dessert due to lack of room, but I did not feel badly stuffed, just satisfied. (I think it helped that I stretched out my stomach at Fiesta Mexicana in Rochester the night before, where the library team went to meet Janet for dinner!)

Sure it was pricy, and it's impossible to get a table on a Friday or Saturday night, but I'd go back. It was an impressive and self-assured presentation of a delicious meal.

Monday, June 18, 2001

Here's a unique twist on an event: Spring Fling had rain. To be precise, the heavens broke loose during evening Court, forcing the royal party to take shelter under the large pavilion in which they had been holding Court. Uh...sound familiar? I was having flashbacks to W&W last year, and I know I'm not the only one. We wrapped Princess Leyla in a rug, and while the Verangian Guard held down the pavilion (which had not been staked), the rest of us huddled in the middle of the pavilion while the wind whipped rain at us. Viscount Cnut directed the pavilion-holding operations and shepherded the soaked royal party into a van when one arrived; I put my basket in with the Princess, to keep the Chronicle dry. (More about that later.) It rained only for about ten minutes, and then it blew over, revealing a peaceful evening sunset shading into a starlit sky. Yeah. Too late to apologize, Big Guy up There, the Princess is already wet!

Except for that, the event was lovely. I bunked in with my friend Wren, who, it turns out, was entirely serious when she offered to make me a Flemish kirtle outfit for Pennsic. So serious that she drove me to Appleton Friday night to buy fabric. JoAnn's was having a fabulous sale and was open until 10, so we had a blast wandering around and jokingly proposing that we buy up various gaudy fabrics to make garb. ("This lime-colored polyester crepe covered with aqua and purple sequins would be gorgeous as a veil, don't you think? With a bodice and skirt made of this fuschia viscose taffeta? No? Why ever not?") I got 7 yards of white muslin and 7 yards of rose linen/rayon for $30. I don't know what Wren will charge for labor yet, but already this is the cheapest set of garb I ever made/had made for me!

As Owen's stand-in during Court, I actually spent much of Saturday sitting at the Princess' feet and taking down whatever I observed: great deeds on the tourney field, wonderful things said by Her Highness or others, nice things I saw people doing, etc. For flair's sake I bought a red leatherbound journal at Barnes & Noble on the way out of town Friday, embossed with a simple heart on the front, and used that and a purple pen to take down all the details. (Never hurts to wear your heart on your sleeve.) There were so many great things to watch and take down; I got about eight pages of names, incidents, jokes, statements, and my observations.

I think it was a good mental exercise not just in chronicling (what's worthy of being written down vs. what's not? Who makes the decision? How detailed should I get?), but in bardic observation, of the type on which Owen waxes so eloquent. Where is the best place to look in order to see recordable deeds? Who can I expect them from, and why am I usually wrong? Am I able to appreciate the context behind someone's statements or actions, when I have not previously engaged in this type of observation? If not, how does this affect not just what I'm able to write, but what I'm able to see/hear? I haven't even arrived at the question of what to do with the information yet. Maybe typing it out will spark some ideas. The Princess told me she was hopeful that the exercise would result in some inspiration for my own bardic work. Sounds like an order to me...

Let me just say that there is NO PLACE like the royal presence if you want a great view of the tourney. For the first time, I watched an entire light weapons tourney, then an entire heavy weapons tourney. I also got an inside view of the royal party, and the work it takes simply to arrange items, people, and plans for Court and other ceremonial happenings, not to mention the effort just to keep everyone in the royal pavilion cool, watered, and comfortable for an entire afternoon. Princess Leyla is fabulous, or maybe it's just that that's the longest continuous time I've spent near any royalty in my time in the SCA. She never once complained of the hard throne seat, the bugs, the heat, or the fact that surely she must have had a dozen other things she could be getting done during the 5 hours when basically she sat and watched the tourneys. I would have been going slowly crazy, with nothing to do with my hands, few people to talk to, the knowledge of tons of paperwork waiting for me at home, and being able to get up only during breaks in the fighting. Me personally, I was fascinated, but my feet kept going to sleep, and my hips hurt so bad after 3 hours on the floor that I had to ask to bring my chair over. One thing: next time Owen sends me to do his job, he's sending the stool on which he does it too!

Leyla reminds me of those lines in "The Griffon and the Star" by Duke Sir Conn:

"What lady high stirs noble blood,
To deeds most worthy, brave and good,
To act as loyal vassals should,
A star of grace and beauty.
The star, our princess, wise and fair,
For her itís blows we strike and bear,
To pay the debt of her dear care."

Especially the line about "her dear care". This is a Princess who never stops asking if everyone else has had enough water, enough rest, enough food, are they hurt, are they getting wet, is everyone having fun? She never asked anything for herself--just constantly looked out for everyone. She also seems to understand that when the Princess tells everyone to go get a drink of water, she wields the power of command that even a chirurgeon lacks, and can do some real good that way. Leyla's dear care is going to make her stand out from the crowd of lovely, friendly, elegant, accomplished, hard-working Viscountesses with which the Northshield is increasingly blessed. I think she's going to be my favorite Princess yet.

At night I got to snuggle a little with my friend Lance. Have you ever met someone who has the particular body shape/size/height with which you match best? We can even walk hip-to-hip with our arms around each others' waists and be comfortable. He is my ideal snuggle. Not sure whether he'll ever be anything else, but I'll snuggle with him anytime.

When I drove back from the event and stopped in Galesville for the populace meeting, I was excited to find that three fighters and a couple of others from Shattered Oak had joined us for fighter practice. I'm afraid I was so excited that I kinda talked too much in the meeting (so what else is new?). I love visitors. They stayed for the meeting and proposed a border skirmish next spring, in Osseo, with a pie theme (a la The Norske Nook). Wyndreth is calling it the Pie Snit, because she and Vlad got in trouble the last time they staged a true border skirmish, for supposedly promoting divisiveness. So it's not really a fight, it's just a snit. ;) Wyndreth's friend Goonie was there and the three of us sang up a storm (not literally...I'd had enough of that for one weekend), and harmonized a little bit, which is my favorite pastime. It completely made up for an event with no singing.

Have you noticed that my blog has become almost completely a journal these days? And that I have so much to report, that my entries make you scroll and scroll to read the whole thing? I refuse to see this as a bad thing. All this activity sure makes up for a relatively boring winter. ;)

Thursday, June 14, 2001

I'm listening to a CD Grimmund gave me at Coronet, one of those "The SCA Dance CD" CD's made on someone's computer. These are pretty good recordings actually, largely of music I've never heard before, played by groups comparable to (or even slightly better than) the Jaravellir Music Guild we know and love in the Northshield. Very pretty, elegant dances, likably heavy on the percussion but with quite competent winds and strings, and just enough sour notes to make you feel you're there, watching the musicians toil and the dancers swoosh across the floor. Pleasant things to imagine.

Tomorrow: going to Spring Fling in Windhaven. I'm taking the afternoon off so as to get there while it's still light out. This would normally be for the purposes of putting up my tent, but observant readers will note that I have no tent as of yet: Sarra and I threw out the old one, and the new one hasn't yet come. (It was supposed to. The owner said it would. It did not.) When I posted to the Windhaven listserv, asking if anyone had room to shelter me this weekend, SEVEN offers came in. This is the legendary Windhaven hospitality at work! I accepted the first one, so I now have a tent to stay in, albeit with a 'roomie' who is a stranger.

Something nice: Owen asked me to fill in for him as Bard/Chronicler of the Northshield at Princess Leyla's first solo Court this weekend. I was disappointed that he wouldn't be there, but what a nice cookie he gave me instead! His request is that there be a Northshield bard at every court, to take down everything that's said, important, funny, touching, inspiring, or silly. I think this is a really neat idea and hope others will take it seriously too. Plus I get to be in Court, and sit at her Highness' feet! It's the next best thing to being the Bard of Northshield myself. (Someday I would like that honor, but it's going to take awhile, I fear. No problem. I'm not going anywhere.) I'm going to stop by Barnes & Noble on the way out of town tomorrow, and get a nice blank book for taking notes.

Tuesday, June 12, 2001
Regarding the below: I just did another web search for Mr. Harr, and discovered that he and his wife are on the benefactors list for the Grosse Pointe Public Library. I am so proud. More than that, he has apparently had two kids with his new wife, and lives with them in Grosse Point, Michigan, according to this choir bio from the Detroit Concert Choir. And there's a picture on this page! Apparently he's still singing and doing musical theatre (Grosse Pointe Theater). I didn't find an e-mail but I probably could reach him a couple of different ways if I had to. What a wonderful thing is the Internet.

Meg at Not-so-soft has a current entry discussing one of her favorite teachers from high school. This reminds me that for a long time now, I have been meaning to sit down and compile all the ways my favorite high school teacher, Stan Harr, the choir director, improved my life and musicality. However, I've never actually sat down and done this, because I know I would never be able to remember all the innumerable small pointers, rules, encouragements, jokes, and more that were so important to me then, and are even more important to my musical development since then.

I was in Mr. Harr's choirs for four years at Madison West High School (don't bother looking for him there, he moved away only 3 years after I graduated, though the picture of a choir on the Music Dept. webpage was taken in the choir room that we rehearsed in every day for four years). There were things he taught us that have never been brought up again in my presence by any other choir director, but that form the basis for my own sense of musicality:

  • ACTADOT: Always Crescendo Over a Dot or Tie. This encompasses the idea that you do not simply sit on a long note, you make it move by making it louder (or, as I have discovered can sometimes be advisable, making it softer). A choir that sits on a long note, obviously using it as a chance to rest their brains, invariably has a dozen other problems too--and a conductor who can't hear this is not worth his salt, if you ask me.
  • The very idea of musicality consisting of phrases with emphasis: the musical line with its softer and louder parts, the line of poetry with its important words and de-emphasized words. He drew great arcs on the blackboard (yes, the one in the picture) and he demanded to know not only which words, but also which syllables should be emphasized in any given line of text.
  • Mr. Harr still governs my conviction about singing in foreign languages: that a singer has no business singing anything he/she cannot translate, at least the gist, better word-for-word.
  • The difference between instrumental and choral music is words. If the audience cannot understand your words, they might as well be listening to instrumental music, and then why are you there? No other conductor in my experience has worked so much on diction. In the back of my mind is a fear that I have been slurring my way through 12 years of choral singing, ever since graduating from West, because no one has cared so much since then about diction.
  • Music that seems impossible is possible. Music that seems difficult may be difficult until the moment you are through with the performance, but it is do-able. Music that seems complex is probably more rewarding. Music that seems simple is often the hardest to get to sound good.
  • Even though you can't hear the [pitch problems/rushing/dragging/rhythmic mistakes/etc.] the conductor is describing, you need to trust him because he's been doing this longer than you have.
  • He was not of the opinion that choirs should have a reserved quality. I still remember him shouting at us during points of high intensity, trying to get us to give more, upping the tension through the tone of his voice. When years later, Beverly Taylor at the UW-Madison Choral Union (Robert Fountain's successor) shouted at us before the "Quando Corpus Morietur" of Dvorak's Stabat Mater, I had a flashback to Mr. Harr, and could hear a little of his voice in hers: "When the body dies!"

Looking back at my first nervous year in choir, afraid to even listen to myself, totally in the dark about most of what we were doing, I realize how unique his freshman Mixed Chorus class was: it was a genuine, patient, step-by-step introduction to choral singing. You can't get this anywhere else (and I have a feeling that not all high school choir conductors even believe you need this early training, figuring it's best to just dive in and let the main points be taught by example). He drilled us in reading pitch intervals, something that set the stage for my sightreading skills (not inconsiderable, these days). Not only did we learn foreign language pronunciations, we talked about why we were singing in foreign languages, why each piece was done in that language, and what the pitfalls might be. ("Why do we pronounce Latin like Italian? Because that's where the Pope hangs out.") We broke into small groups and took an unbelievable two weeks to learn and practice short rounds, developing a minimal independence, or at least the idea that we would need to be independent sometimes in choir. We took entire semesters to practice individual pieces, which Mr. Harr would then decide not to put into the concert, since we had learned what we could from the piece; polishing it for a performance had not been the point. He also taught us a piece by ear, reminding us (as none of my choir directors has since then) that learning by hearing is the oldest way of learning music, and is a valid way to learn.

Mr. Harr's sense of humor could be biting, and individual students sometimes were the butt of his jokes, but he was always funny and entertaining. He had a certain look on his face when he was about to launch into a story, a certain bemused, "don't know if I should tell you this, but..." look, and I remember grinning and settling down to listen when I saw it. I still remember the look on his face when someone brought in their Teddy Ruxpin Tuxedo doll. He put it on his lap, turned it on, and heard it sing a little "Feegaro, feegaro feegaro feegaro," and the sweet look on his face was priceless: lookit da little bear singin'. In a tux. Awwww. This was not ordinarily a tender man. We laughed until we peed.

I studied for choir finals. I have a feeling no one else did. They were a relatively easy task for me, and so I assumed he had been instructed to give final exams against his will, and was making them simple in order to follow the rules without stressing us out too much. It wasn't until later that I realized they actually contained some tough stuff: identifying which of four notated tunes he was playing on the piano, matching repertoire titles with their composers, arranging pieces in chronological order, etc. He rarely discussed them or told us whether we'd done well, just graded and handed them back a month later. The day he mentioned to the class, in passing, that I had gotten the highest score in the class on the winter final exam, was one of the happiest days of my high school career.

After all, I was never one of the stars of the choir; I didn't have Lisa Lawrence's voice, Julie Harr's musicality, Kevin Hassett's charisma, or Adam Hirsch's hamminess. I couldn't act, I couldn't dance, and I didn't play any other instruments. But when I auditioned for the UW Choral Union in spring of my senior year and got in, he told me he thought that was great and that I would love it, find it a challenge, and find both Robert Fountain and Beethoven's Missa Solemnis to be among the highest examples of their ilk. He actually used the word 'ilk'. This was typical of Mr. Harr: he had to find a unique way to communicate everything.

I miss Mr.Harr. While I was in graduate school, I always wished I knew when he would be back in Madison so I could invite him to a UW Madrigal Singers concert. After all, he was the first person to introduce me to madrigals, sparking my interest in early music, which in turn led to my love for things medieval and eventually to the SCA. There can be no way for him, or even me, to know the full extent of his influence on my life. Every so often I do a web search, hoping to find an e-mail address or at least a reference to where he's currently teaching, but no luck so far--very irritating for a professional librarian and internet search maven. But I don't know what I'd write if I found him, so I guess it's just as well. I might feel a little cowed; I wouldn't know how to say thank you. Maybe this posting goes a little ways towards that. He'll probably never see this, but at least I've written it; this unburdens me a little.

Sunday, June 10, 2001

What a great Coronet it was! I think it's well-known that I rate an event by how many times I get to sing at it. This one gets high ratings: great choir practice, wonderful choir performance, and I got to sing "Douce Dame Jolie" with Alissende, then sang one verse of "Belle Qui Tiens Ma Vie" during the dancing (I was in the restroom for the beginning of it! I felt terrible.). Then a short time at the post-revel, where Ysolt and I sang a few things together, and where Owen, Ysolt, and I did a rather silly can-can to a Conn song. "Ducere" (kick), "ministrare" (kick), "Illu-" (kick) "mi-" (kick) "nare (kick)!" We were just a little slap-happy. So what else is new, for me at a post-revel? ;)

I felt like I got some nice appreciation for "Douce Dame" after feast. Many people came up and said they liked it, and Peregrine, who is a musician I have long admired (and a librarian, which is cool no matter what), said his whole table was dancing in their seats. He sang some Machaut for me, great stuff, including one that was so completely non-modal that it could have doubled as a margarine commercial. It was neat to hear. Then he said he has been transcribing Machaut from facsimiles and wants to work up some duets to do for fun at events. Hey, he didn't have to ask me twice. I'm there. It's so nice to have friends who have the same interest in obscure medieval French composers that I do!

Sarra got her Award of Arms, well in advance of when she had wanted to receive it (at Autumn Rose, Labor Day weekend). She and Giles didn't arrive at the event until about 15 minutes after she was called up. So, when her name was called, I went up for her, and asked that we try to arrange a way for Saeric and Yasamin to present it to her later in the day. They agreed, and Kudrun, Giles, and I spent much of the afternoon trying to get the Rokeclif folks, several friends, and S & Y together in one place. When we finally did (after choir practice), out near the list field, Yasamin played the part admirably, demanding to know where she was during court, and directing her to kneel. Sarra claims she didn't know what was going on until Kudrun began reading from the scroll! We're all so proud of her.

After the choir rehearsal and surprise awarding, Alexandra, Kontzel, Bronwen, and I went over to Vera's Bridal near Point Cinemas, to see Kontzel's choice for a bridal gown. She chose a gorgeous gown, simple, with a high waist and princess lines, short sleeves, large train, and pretty beading that doesn't look too frou-frou. Of course everyone oohed and aahed over our garb, even me with my makeshift ribbon tippets (I left the real ones at home by accident, so I stopped at Wal-Mart in Richland Center and bought fixings for disposable ones...hey, that's an idea for Pennsic tippets!) How odd, to be in garb at a formal-wear store...

Today, after getting lost several times on the way from Madison, we marched in a Founders Days parade in Caledonia, MN, which turns out to be only about 30 min. from La Crosse. (It didn't seem that way when I was trying to find it from the southeast, and ended up going to Iowa by accident!) The truck we were supposed to ride through the parade fell through, so we (Giles, Toki, me, and Lady Beatrix and Lord Thorbjorn from Calontir, with their two small children) marched in the hot sun along a parade route about 3/4 mile long. We were slow enough that we held up the parade for about two blocks at any given time. It wasn't that hard of a walk though, just slightly hot and sunny. A demo followed in a nice park, with a flat lawn, shady seating, and a pool behind us that was blaring pop music while we tried to explain the different types of armor and teach songs. (We taught "Row, Men, Row" and people actually sang along. I hadn't thought to teach SCA songs to mundanes at demos before, but that one works beautifully because the chorus is so easy and the melody repeats over and over again.)

But the best part: the Caledonia Arts & Festival Board gave us a check for $300 in appreciation! We just about fell over. This wipes out the loss we took on the event in April. Maybe I'll bring some sparkling cider to toast our windfall at the Shire meeting next Sunday!

Thursday, June 07, 2001
More Moulin Rouge fan activities on my part: after reading some Aussies raving over the soundtrack and their downloaded .mp3 files of it on this bulletin board, I decided not to wait for my copy of the CD to crawl here through the mail. With high hopes I downloaded Napster (yes, I know, I'm about 18 months behind the times, so sue me). Tried for hours to get it to work. Help files weren't helpful; discussion forums were down for maintenance. Got mad. Found a Usenet thread where people were discussing their favorite Napster alternatives; someone mentioned Morpheus as their favorite. I downloaded that from TUCOWS, discovered it didn't work, fumed, tried it again, and it worked. I now have all the tracks I had especially wanted to hear (suprise, the ones with Ewan MacGregor singing), and am casting about for other music I might also like to download. Copyright infringement, here I come, I guess...(they can't revoke my MLS for that, can they? Can they?)

Coronet is coming up quickly. Tomorrow night I'm driving to Madison, then waking up bright and early to go to site Saturday morning. There will be a Northshield Choir rehearsal from 1-3, probably about the same time as the fighting, so we'll have to take a brief hiatus for the final bouts. No big deal if you ask me. It should be a nice event; all 3 of the preceding Coronets were. Their purpose is so well-defined that people are constrained to do whatever's available to do (court and watching fighting), unless they are conducting event business or preparing for later parts of the event. The result: the entire Principality concentrating together on one thing, for really the first time in 6 months (so many people don't come to even the big courts these days!). That is so rare. I enjoy it a lot.

And now, before I toddle off to bed, another listen to "Come What May"...I have been mining the Internet for wonders (and putting a few non-wonders out on it myself) for so many years now, that I forget sometimes how finding just the right thing, using just the right technology, is so perfect a thing, so lovely and heart-pleasing. I'm glad I can appreciate the Internet with a whole heart. If I had gone to library school 20 years earlier (nice trick, if SLIS accepted one-year-olds) I might be so much more conflicted about it. As it is, good information is where you find it, IMHO, and I find it here tonight. Thanks, Morpheus.

Tuesday, June 05, 2001
I forgot to mention in my last entry that Kristen and I went to see Moulin Rouge Friday night. What a movie--huge energy, high melodrama, shallow but broad romance, tragedy that's not so heart-rending that you can't enjoy yourself while the final musical number plays. I recognized the director's style right away, though it took me most of the movie to figure out where from (I was having vague flashbacks from Romeo + Juliet; turns out it's the same director).

Moulin Rouge is a classic movie musical complete with fully staged dance, cabaret, and dramatic numbers--BUT all the music is adapted from existing pop and jazz pieces, sometimes in snippets (Madonna's "Material Girl" pops up, appropriately, in the middle of "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend") and sometimes in toto. Everything is so charmingly arranged and sung that it works, works, works, baby, unlike the rude superimposition of hard-rockin' anthems over the action in A Knight's Tale (which I thought was okay, but seriously lacking in costume accuracy as well as missing an interesting plot). Kind of a coincidence that the two movies take the same musical approach on the surface (using pop songs that are out-of-period for the historical time of the movie setting), but go about it in such diametrically different ways. I almost hope we don't see a trend of it, because it's so easy to mess up. But they don't mess it up in Moulin Rouge.

Ewan McGregor can sing, something I knew from A Life Less Ordinary, where he easily shows up Cameron Diaz' offensively bad alto in the fantasy bar scene. But in this movie, he warbles, he soars, he offers his heart in his voice, and you know in your head he's lip-synching to something he previously recorded, because the acoustics can't be THAT good in that little elephant room, but you can't help but look into his eyes and think, how perfect, how openhearted and silly and beautiful....He takes Elton John's "Your Song", which is about as personality-free a song as I have ever heard in popdom, and turns it into a passionate and innocent pledge of total faith in love. How anyone ever came up with the idea of using that song, I'll never know--but it works.

I have already ordered my CD of the soundtrack, which was at #1 in Amazon sales yesterday--surely a first (my purchasing a bestselling item at the height of its popularity). I later found the tape available at HMV (and the CD for less than I paid, since HMV's all in Canadian dollars and hence everything's a steal). But I think I might want to rearrange the tracks when I dub the CD. Put all the peppy, poppy stuff on one side and the heart-rending love & tragedy songs on the other. Can't do that with a tape (well, you can, but it's inconvenient).

In other shopping news, I have been looking with pleasant disbelief at some of the gorgeous things at Historic Enterprises, a company that deals in clothing and accoutrements for re-enactors of a very narrow period in European history--around 1350-1475, one of my favorite garb periods. If anyone is looking to be my mysterious benefactor for my half-birthday (I'll be 30 1/2 on June 19...woohoo, break out the party hats), I am drooling for their 15th century women's gown set with the short-sleeved cotehardie, pin-on Flemish sleeves, undersmock, and veil. I just don't happen to have $185 lying around uncommitted (or $240 for the linen version). Deep sigh...

Monday, June 04, 2001

Relatively quiet weekend. Saturday, I day-tripped to Castle Fever and had perhaps the most sedentary outdoor event ever, basically plopping myself down on the grass at any opportunity. (Amazing how the decision not to camp takes 3/4 of the pressure out of an event for me!) Sarra and I hung out with Mistress Cassandra, whose brother was in charge of the stew pot (and delicious stew it was...who says garlic isn't appropriate in beef stew?). I had never really talked to Cassandra before; she made a big impression on me as a consummate garb person at my very first event, a Newcomers' Seminar in Milwaukee in 1997, but I will admit to a little 'peer fear' since then. But she was definitely fun to talk to. And she was able to tell Sarra some useful things about W & W--being one of the autocrats, after all.

Sunday I decided to stay home, and not go to the Coille Stoirmeil demo at Mill Bluff State Park. I think this was the right thing to do. I slept in, finished a book, and did about half the needed work on Giles' tunic. My problem with the tunic, my first piece of male garb, is not that the construction is difficult--it's not. It's that I can't be sure anything fits. After doing the sloper and carefully fitting it to him, you'd think I'd have a little more confidence, but I still feel like I'm groping in the dark. I keep wanting to try it on myself to see how it fits, but that information won't really help me...!

Also, after carefully conserving the beige material for the body of the tunic, realizing that there really wasn't enough, and fudging where I could to get everything cut out, I found the same thing to be true of the trim fabric. Although I tried to fudge there too, there will be no band of contrasting trim fabric around the bottom--there's no way around it. The trim around the neck will look great, though--I seamed invisibly around the neckline, and then will applique down the outer edge of the trim, possibly with a decorative stitch in gold thread, though I tend to think the fabric pattern is a little too busy for that. So I might do invisible applique instead. The gold thread would probably be scratchy anyway.

It's my hope that this will be a nice blah week. I can use a rest after last week.

Friday, June 01, 2001
The Northshield Hall listserv has been abuzz recently, on the topic of fundraising for a new and uncertain future as a Kingdom. Many seem convinced that not only will they not let us be a kingdom if we don't raise $60,000 for a trust fund, but if they did, we wouldn't succeed anyway--we'd be run into the ground by our costs. The discussion is comprised of about 20% gloom-and-doom, 20% good ideas for how to avoid financial pitfalls and raise money, and 60% people picking on other people's good ideas. My personal opinion:

  1. The Kingdom of Northshield will not have significantly different costs than the Principality of the Northshield. We're not absorbing the Middle Kingdom, for pete's sake, we're seceding from it! We'll still be the same size and have the same number of events and royalty, they'll just be called something different.
  2. If you shoot down someone else's idea, you better darn well have a better one waiting in the wings.
  3. If you have a good idea and other people pick on it like crazy, this doesn't mean you can't still do it.
  4. No wet chemise contests. It's just not seemly, folks. Now, Best Male Legs in Northshield contests, those are a whole different kettle of fish.

It's been an interesting and frustrating thread on the hall, and I think a lot of people are ready for it to die down already. In fact, it may even impel people to finally make that donation to the Kingdom Trust Fund just to feel that they have done their part and can now delete any further money-related e-mails in good conscience! Viscountess Gwyneth finally posted a terse message saying, in effect, that if we would just all put our money where our mouths are, we wouldn't be in this mess, and that instead of churning the waters on the list, everyone should take measures to do their part, right now. It didn't stop the discussion, but it was good leadership from our first Princess.

I am trying to think of a good creative way to contribute. I could just send in $100, but I doubt that would soothe my urge to help. Yesterday though, when looking for an Internet order source for Elmer's Gold Brick Ice Cream Topping (used to be you had to write the company a letter!), I found that Elmer's also makes (are you ready for this stunningly great idea?): custom candy conversation hearts.

Wow. Immediately I am picturing myself at Pennsic with a big basket of adorable bundles of candy hearts, strolling through the marketplace hawking my wares, with a big sign around my neck: "Proceeds to Benefit the Northshield Trust Fund". Of course, doing the math (never a pleasant thing for me in the first place), I discovered that just to break even, I'd have to sell 80 1/8 lb. bundles (52 pc./bundle) at $1.50 a bundle. Even 1/20 lb. bundles (24 pc./bundle, pretty chintzy) at $1.00 a bundle only yields $200 gross, which is $80 net after the $100 candy/printing cost and $19.95 shipping/handling. That's without the time/effort of putting together the bundles, or the fabric costs. Plus that's me attempting to sell 200 bundles, which is a lot of work.

My immediate answer is, "Yeah, but I was going to give $100 to the trust fund anyway; this way, I donate $120, and anything else I earn back by selling is other people's contribution. If it's not much, it's not a big deal, and I've given a lot of people the chance to feel like they've contributed and had fun." You could argue that we don't want to encourage people to feel self-satisfied after giving $1. I will argue back that I'm not the only one with a good fundraising idea (and this one really isn't much good anyway!). People will donate to as many efforts as seem worthwhile and fun. A person with more to give will do so, or have to justify not doing so to themselves--presumably giving themselves a bigger guilt trip than I am (or you are) qualified to give them.

Besides, this way I get to meet a lot of people.

Well anyway, I'm still thinking about it. In a fit of creativity, I came up with five SCA-related heart messages yesterday. I'm not going to post them here--you'll just have to ask me about them at an event!

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