Monday, September 30, 2002

Just started reading Postville: a clash of cultures in heartland America by Stephen Bloom. I'm only in the second chapter and already this is the best book I've read this year, or so it seems to me, probably because it echoes my experience. Journalism professor Bloom moves with his wife and son from San Francisco to Iowa City, which the author describes as though it were some tiny blink-and-you'll-miss-it town instead of home to a major Midwestern university. I suppose it seemed that way to him--a different planet, with everything on a smaller and more intimate scale than he was used to.

Early in the book, Bloom describes the flashes he sees of the Jewish community. A jeweler leans forward when he hears the family's name, and asks, "So, you're new to the community? Have you met any people?". From the way the author talks about Jewish life in Iowa City, you'd think there wasn't any. Yet there is a local rabbi, who shrugs when asked about bagels, apologizing for the doughnutlike variety available at the local Bruegger's.

Been there, done that, on an even smaller scale. For a year I lived in a Jewish community (in Bismarck, ND) so small that our lovely jewellike synagogue was rented to a Baptist congregation except for the High Holydays and weddings/b'nai mitzvot. So small that the nearest rabbi was three hours away. So small that all of us fit into one family's (admittedly somewhat spacious) kitchen for the community Passover seder. So small that it never occurred to the parade planners not to re-route the Folkfest Parade, with its marching bands and fire trucks, past the synagogue on Yom Kippur.

We would have been lucky to get Bruegger's bagels. At least when I moved back to Wisconsin, to Marshfield (with 1/4 of the population of Bismarck, and a comparable-sized Jewish community), I could buy frozen Bagels Forever bagels. It was like washing up on the shore of your homeland after a year drifting on an angry sea.

So anyway, I'm really looking forward to the rest of this book. I can't wait to see how the author juggles his two experiences of reform-verging-on-secular Judaism (urban and rural) with the dichotomy at the center of the book: rural Iowa vs. Chasidic Jews. These four ways of life incorporate stark contrasts and interwoven values, and at the center is a sense of place: how do we determine where home is? How do we know where we can live our lives? How can we, and to what extent should we, bring with us the perspective and culture of our homes when we go to live in a foreign place? And how can we appreciate another person's relationship to his/her home, when (s)he may be further from it (geographically, or in spirit) than we can know?

Middle Kingdom Coronation was not the most well-run event in Northshield history, but beautiful weather (neither hot nor cold, not too sunny) and a lovely site (gorgeous woods everywhere, a beautiful natural amphitheatre for Court and performances) conspired to make it a very good event. I got to see people I hadn't seen in awhile: friends from Mistig Waetru and Skerrstrand, the Pippins from Tree-Girt-Sea, Dan'l of Twin Rose, and many more. Got to eat Feast with Fiskr, who is one of those people I feel safe with--like my first boss, Cheryl, when I worked in the office at camp for a couple of summers. When people like that walk into the room, you just relax. You know they are there to handle whatever comes up, and they would die rather than allow anything bad to happen. There are a few people like that in the SCA, people that I know and love and trust.

As it turned out, my worries in the last post about missing morning Court were unfounded. First of all, morning Court didn't begin until 11:30, so the point was moot. But before that, we arrived at site at 9:15 and did not get through the Troll line until 9:55, when we unloaded the car in a hurry and I rushed off to the other side of the campground for my Performance Stage slot at 10. I arrived to find a lovely empty field with several strange wooden platforms on it (none of which really looked like a stage), surrounded by trees, with no real entrance and no visibility from the rest of the campground.

Absolutely no one was there, including the performance coordinator. As I was standing there wondering what to do, the next act ambled in; we mused a bit on what this was all about, and then I gathered up my stuff and marched over to the A&S Pavilion to find someone who might be interested in a song. I serenaded a lovely pregnant lady with "I Live Not Where I Love", then went back across the longest and narrowest wooden bridge I had ever seen to the main hall, where I stood on the porch and sang a couple of pieces to the crowd as they ambled past me towards the amphitheatre for Court.

Despite scheduling/location snafus, I can't claim not to have gotten in LOTS of singing in at this event. I haven't even mentioned the impromptu performance before Court of "Tant Que Vivray" by the Warwick Consort, the Jararvellir Music Guild, the Northshield Choir, and the Pippins, or the excellent Northshield Choir performances at two different points during the day, or getting to sing "Three Words" one last time to Princess Elashava before she steps down next weekend, or singing at Feast with the Warwick Consort, or the fabulous bardic post-revel in Colin & Charissa's room at the Ramada, just down the way from our room, where (among many others) Priscilla, Baroness Great Bear, showed up and showed off her lovely voice and sense of humor. We also had a breakthrough in improvisational harmony: 3/5 of the room hummed a drone to "My Mother's Savage Daughter" while the rest of us sang the actual song, and the sound was just amazing, amazing, amazing. We NEED to do that for Wyndreth one of these days.

Tomorrow: I have a bit of a reprieve from the daily grind, as I am going to an educational inservice on grief and bereavement all day, away from my normal worksite. I don't normally discuss work in my 'blog, but this bears mentioning both because it will be a pleasant break in the week, and also because the topic will be almost entirely new to me. Not only have I gone all my life without losing anyone who was truly important to me, I have also managed to get a masters' degree without having a single class at any educational level addressing issues of death, dying, loss, or grief, from any perspective whatsoever. I mean, sheesh, my mom's specialty as a social worker is grief counseling! You'd think I'd have acquired some of the tools, but not really. While there's never a good time to confront one's own mortality (hope that's not a planned activity for tomorrow's class!), I hope I can begin to learn how to relate to those going through the grief process. If only to help guide my purchasing in the death/dying/bereavement section of the library collection!

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Some French words often used by English speakers, who might not want to use them if they knew what they really meant:

Potpourri ("spoiled pot", as in, that pot on the back burner we throw leftovers into and leave cooking lightly for days on end, because as it spoils it tastes SO much more interesting)
Eminence grise ("gray eminence", e.g. one's scary grandmother)
Hors d'oeuvre ("outside of the work"; that is, don't fill up on these, the main dish is really tasty)
Sous-chef ("underchef"--does the head chef sit on him when all other chairs are taken?)
Maitre-d'hotel, usually shortened to maitre-d ("master of the house", yeah, just like the song from Les Miz)
Carte blanche ("white card", so much less impressive sounding than "blank check")
Sacre bleu ("sacred blue"; there's a story to this involving a Catholic sect that honored the color blue as the color of the Virgin Mary)
Lingerie ("stuff partaking of laundryness"--"linge" means laundry)

I'm sure there's a lot more that I'm just not thinking of at the moment. If you know of any, send them to me and I may just feature them on this website!

It's been a week to get a lot done, then to look forward and realize how much there is left to do. I woke up this morning with the conviction that I had a two-hour presentation to prepare for at work in a couple of weeks. On checking, I did discover that it's only one hour (and 15 min. of that is reserved for questions), but needs to be performed four times, one of which I will be gone for, so I have to make it something that someone else can step in and teach. Sheesh, even my dreams are conspiring to make me panic unnecessarily...

Midrealm Coronation is coming up on Saturday. It's going to be a real zoo--Coronation is always chock-full, and even more so the closer it gets to the larger population centers of the non-Northshield areas of the Middle Kingdom. If that makes any sense. Just the names on the performance stage schedule are giving me chills: the Pippins, the Warwick Consort, Wyndreth and all three of her apprentices, Mateo from Jararvellir, the Dragon Scale Consort, Constance and Alan Fairfax, and LOTS more.

Including, ahem, me. I have a full half hour to spend onstage at 10 am. Not that anyone will really be interested in hearding bardic stuff at 10 am, when most people are still standing in line at check-in, getting chairs set up, etc. Even people who are planning on spending some time at the performance stage will not even think to check the schedule until they are truly settled into the event, at which time they'll--

Shoot. SHOOT. I have just noticed that after protesting that I could not commit to a 5:30 pm slot since that conflicts with afternoon Court, I asked for 10 am, which conflicts with morning Court. I mean, I'm sure morning Court will be at least 1/2 hour late as usual, but who the heck will be there to perform for? The audience, usually more timely than the Royals, will be sitting in the main hall and waiting for morning Court, not listening to me. I'll be there all alone with my two friends (Alissende and Chandler) who've agreed to help me out on a couple of pieces. Well...uh, well, I guess there won't be any need to be nervous...

Except I want to see Tarrach and Fina assume the Dragon Thrones! Waaaah!

No, honestly, I would like to see it, but it's enough just to know that it's happening. I've said it before, missing Owen's Laureling this May has done something to my sense that I have to be there for something. At the core, if I couldn't be there for his Laureling, I have no real, deep desire to be there for anything, no matter how pleased I am that it's happening. It's sort of sad in a way, but also freeing.

I am doing something kind of crass this weekend, but I have my (admittedly shallow) reasons. After I had planned for a long time to wear the pink Flemish gown Wren made me for Coronation and my black velvet sideless surcoat for Coronet (since it's so Northshield-y), I switched them. Therefore, this weekend I'm wearing the very Northshield-y surcoat (decorated with black and silver Compass Rose buttons that Charissa gave out as bardic tokens two years ago at W&W...what did I tell you, it's REALLY Northshield-y). I took an hour last night and cut off all the excess length and hemmed it, so it won't be totally unsafe to wear outdoors.

The pink Flemish dress will get saved for Coronet next week. Why? Ostensibly because I like the way it looks with about eight inches of extra length puddled on the ground, but this would not work at an outdoor site, whereas Coronet is indoors. The real reasons: I look fabulous in the pink Flemish dress, and the pink Flemish dress has a definite waist, not hidden by yards of black velvet, around which there will be, at some point during the event, a green belt that I've waited for for a very, very long time. (Two years and 24 days since I proposed the idea of being this particular person's apprentice. I went back in my e-mail files and counted.) When I tried it on last night, still thinking I would be wearing it this weekend, it hit me: I need to be apprenticed in the pink Flemish dress, not the black surcoat. It would not be proper to make Owen reach under the sideless surcoat to put that belt around my waist!

Which is admittedly crass, esp. since it forces me to wear an unabashedly black/gold/white outfit with Compass Rose buttons to a Middle Kingdom Coronation. Well hey, if people don't like it, they can just take me to the merchants' and buy me something red/white/green...!

Sunday, September 22, 2002

I was just looking through some files on my computer, and noticed some graphics files in among the contents of my Poetry folder. Wondering what was up, I took a look, and discovered several screen captures from a now-defunct online "magnetic poetry"-style java game. I'm sure copyright issues forced it offline. There are several copycat sites but I liked this one best. An example, written about my experience of the SCA:

I play most fully when
Music drives the dream
Though winter be near
If we sing summer soars

I'm sure I searched for at least an hour for the "summer" and "winter" pieces. That's the trouble with that magnetic poetry stuff--one word will spark an idea, so you set it aside and start looking for the next logical word to complete the thought, but it either takes forever or isn't even in the set. It's not a very useful format for SCA poetry writing (not even the Shakespearean Set that I won at Hare Afffaire a couple of years ago), but it can be a fun pasttime.

On the theme of the above poem, I had about the most fun and fulfilling SCA weekend I've had in a long time. I went to the Twin Cities for the Northshield Choir recording session. My friend Chris is masterminding a new CD of Northshield music/musicians, as a fundraiser for the forthcoming Kingdom of Northshield. Others have had this idea, but he's the latest to go forward with it, and if the Northshield Choir part is any indication, it's going to be wonderful. With Owen manning the recording equipment, we recorded six pieces between 10 and 3:30 pm (finishing early) and got some high-quality bonding in too. Yes, we all worked hard, but had some fun moments too, and laughed a lot. I think we made some breakthroughs that we have never found our way to before--like introducing some limits on volume (when you sing outside, you just sing LOUD all the time) and thinking harder about our blend, both pitch and vowel.

After the recording session we went over to a local Chinese restaurant, where we were 45 minutes early--not at all a problem, as the small mall the restaurant was in also sported one of the nicer bead stores I have seen anywhere. (Not as big as Bobby Bead ,or even Tropic Jewel in Madison, but spotless and beautifully lit, and full of those great little pewter charms that are currently in vogue for use on wineglass tags.) The whole choir tromped in to ooh and aah at the gorgeous Czech glass in all colors. Of course I had to buy some beads--you couldn't seriously have thought I wouldn't. ;)

Dinner was excellent, then we proceeded over to the Hamline University for a concert of English Renaissance string music. A small group with a harpsichord player, two violinists, two violists, and two cello/viol players did a gorgeous job. I confess I might have been slightly bored if I'd been there alone, but there was always something interesting about each piece for someone in our group--one was the tune for a dance that Owen and Rosanore knew, another had Chandler scribbling notes madly so he could hunt down a version for the Jararvellir Music Guild, and the encore was the tune for the Nordskogen Fight Song. I fell in love with the tune for something called "Strawberries and Cream", an anonymous ballad/dance tune, and announced to everyone as we left the hall that I was going to find that piece and sing it, even if I had to write my own lyrics for it.

After that, we proceeded over to a bardic gathering at Colin and Charissa's, who have a lovely big old house with tons of space and a neat-o attic where they lodge crashers at events. At Owen's urging (in part prompted by some conversations we had on the way back from Pennsic, I think, plus the choral experience of the day) we experimented with some harmonies for popular Northshield songs. (Hey, if any group would have been likely to be interested in harmonies for bardic stuff, that was the one.) This segued into a discussion of what's expected and what people like/dislike at Northshield bardic circles, which was interesting but perhaps a bit cerebral for a lot of people, who were tired and just wanted to enjoy some singing.

We did get some plain ol' bardic singing in too, of course. I did "Three Words" early on, by request, with Chandler on dumbek--I had no idea he played, but Colin handed him the thing and he just went to town. I warned him that I'm putting him on my list of accompanists for that piece. Everyone in the room sang along on the chorus, which just blows my mind (not that it's the first thing about that song's life that blows my mind). It's not the kind of melody that you picture everyone learning quickly and humming--it has bizarre large interval jumps, weird accidentals, and not the most intuitive rhythm in the world. But they did it with enthusiasm. It made me so happy to hear everyone singing, and see the looks on their faces.

Oh yeah, and I did the whole thing flawlessly from memory. You know, there are days when you get so much more out of life than you deserve...

Kudrun and I were staying at Rosanore's, so we all went home at about 1 am, and proceeded to talk for another 45 minutes or so before we could get all three of us to tear ourselves away from the conversation and get some sleep. Talk about a good day. Choir singing, bead shopping, yummy food, a great concert, and bardic singing, all in one day--I don't deserve such riches. Not to mention all the quality time with friends. I sorely needed a day like that. Now I can't wait for the next three weekends' worth of events, so I can sing with my friends again!

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Every so often I find someone on the web who has done what I try to do: create a personal website that really expresses what's inside, without bells or whistles but with a certain kind of unabashed honesty. For a variety of reasons, most sites either go too far (too thematic, too erotic, too complex, too flashy) or not far enough (too sketchy, too amateurish, no real content, some type of restriction on what the person can talk about). This person has found the middle ground (and is kinda cute too). His stories/poems aren't for everyone but they're pretty good in spots. (Warning: this is a visit-at-home,-not-at-work website, and some of the writings are NC-17 or more. If you visit and are offended, don't say I didn't warn you.)

I've been Ms. Domestic for the last couple of evenings, doing laundry, dishes, tidying, changing linens, installing a new shower curtain, emptying garbage, and putting together kumihimo kits. I was just realizing that not only will I be gone part of this weekend (Northshield Choir recording session in the Twin Cities), but for the next three weekends after that too. And I have two gowns to hem before the first two events, which should take up at least part of my weeknights. So I wanted to get some work done. Not that I've now cleansed my apartment top to bottom and made it look like a hotel. That'll never happen, my friend. But I can re-string my temporarily-strung amber beads from Pennsic, try to match up a few of the CD's and CD cases that are spread all over my coffee table in bright disarray, and swab out the toilet, and then give a little barklike sigh and smile and say, "There! I made an effort."

Hey, I never said I was a good housekeeper!

I really did get amber beads at Pennsic. I was wearing my only slightly earlyish-period garb, a teal blue overtunic with pink trim (don't ask about the color was conceived as a loaner garb piece, but in the end I needed something light and non-wrinkle-able to round out my Pennsic wardrobe, so I brought it along). During one of the rare empty hours when I had nothing scheduled, I was walking through the merchants' and found a display of amber necklaces that were cheaper than others I'd seen. On inspection I discovered it was because they were strung on nylon thread and knotted closed--not really necklaces, more like a way to get a collection of beads home without putting it in a plastic bag. Well heck, if I'm going to wear a tunic, I have to have an amber necklace, right? Here was a way to pay slightly less for it.

When I bought it and tried to put it on, the knot slipped a bit. The picture of me on my knees in the dusty roadway, trying to collect 79 nearly translucent beads the same color as the dust, flashed into my mind. So I begged a piece of scotch tape from the booth proprietress, and taped over the knot as securely as I could. It didn't break open until I cut it tonight, so I guess it worked. I put the beads on some SoftTouch beading wire, which is a slightly cheaper knockoff of a more well-known brand, and attached a big old clasp that had been floating around my beading supply box for years. It actually looks nice--like something I could wear with a sweater and skirt to work, maybe.

Listening to a CD by DeCantus, a small vocal ensemble from Minneapolis. The CD was a gift from my friend Christian, who is also the guy arranging the recording session Saturday. This is a one-voice-per-part group and they're pretty darned talented. They go from bald comedy (PDQ Bach's "Please, kind sir") to sentimental post-period folk songs ("Annie Laurie", "Wild Mountain Thyme", and more, sometimes in modern arrangements, which I sorta like--those arrangements should have a bigger audience than just high school choir concerts!) to serious, meticulous but spirited renditions of classic madrigals ("Sweet honey-sucking bees", "Fair Phyllis", etc.)

It's unsual to find an ensemble like this where every voice is such high quality, so musical and so involved; a trio bass/baritone/tenor rendition of "We be soldiers three" by Ravenscroft is flawlessly done, and very live in quality--no deadwood here. Then the same men's ensemble does "Four arms, two necks, one wreathing" (easily winner of the Silliest Madrigal Title Ever award) very competently, complete with an excellent countertenor part. The pitch is very good, pronunciation is clear as a bell, and you can just picture these folks in Elizabethan garb at the local Renaissance Faire. (On looking at their website, they do indeed perform at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival--I've probably heard them there, in fact.) In their variety and spirit, they remind me of the King's Singers.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Oh my lord. The works of the prolific and irritated Norse bard, the Boreal Master, are finally up on the web, with a full analysis and footnotes, and decorated with Master Hector's signature plaid. This is...well, there's no way I can explain, describe, or make excuses for these works. And of course you haven't gotten slammed in the face with the full gory, er, glory of "The Lay of the Rowing Bench" until you've heard it sung. Just read, click through to the footnotes, shake your head, read some more, then do not neglect to read "The Berserker's Laundry List" aloud. It veritably comes alive. Trust me.

(Annora, you might get a special kick out of all this, having a Norse persona and all. I'll bet you can get Owen to sing "The Lay of the Rowing Bench" for you at Coronation.)

Owen says that he and I have been assigned a paper to write for the next Symposium on the Boreal Master, to be held at Known World Bardic Congress & Cooks' Collegium in just under a month. I don't know--I think I need a few days just to absorb the enormity of the existing scholarship on this ancient and venerable poet's works. And much help from Owen to get the thing written. I'm funny (my mother says so, anyway), but I'm not THAT funny.

Speaking of my mom, I spent part of this past weekend at home in Madison for Yom Kippur. It was nice to be with my parents and with the extended family (really non-related families) that we normally spend the High Holydays with. There are 5 families with (largely grown) kids and a small constellation of couples who join in occasionally. We have been doing this for perhaps 15 years and it feels nice to have something regular to depend on. The dinners (where they are, what is served, etc.) are largely the same from year to year, and 80-90% of the kids' generation (at least 12 in that generation; I keep losing track) manages to show up every year, sometimes from as far away as New York.

We have been refusing to have a "kids' table" for about 5 years now, about since the youngest had his bar mitzvah. Kids' tables are really only any good for isolating food fights and making sure the kids don't steal the adults' rightful share of the gefilte fish. We do, however, normally take over whatever family room or living room space is to be had after the meal, so all the guys can nap. This makes for some nice photo opportunities of guys we've known since they were toddlers, sprawled snoring with their mouths open and belts undone, fed to the utmost with brisket and chopped liver. Blackmail material if I ever saw it.

Something odd this year--the first one in the kids' generation has gotten engaged. (This is NOT the oldest--I, and a woman I went through Sunday school with, am the oldest. The woman who got engaged is three years younger than us.) She did not have her fiance along for the holiday, but was beaming at everyone, showing the ring and telling people about him. (He sounds really neat--teaches 5th grade. You can't go wrong with an elementary school teacher. Can't get rich, but can't go wrong! ;) ) Others of us have brought significant others for one of the Holidays or for Passover, but she's the first to actually sport a ring. It won't be odd to have him there (and if they decide to go to his family's instead, it will be even less odd, since they won't be there to be noticed as a couple)--what will be really odd will be when they have a baby and bring it to one of our annual get-togethers.

I can just picture it--a crowd of eleven young adults between 19 and 33, together as usual for one of the holidays, finally cutting out their shenanigans, shouting, and random napping because, shhh, she's bringing in the baby...oh's so cute...

Naaahhh. It'll never happen. ;)

Friday, September 13, 2002

So it's late at night (well, for a day when I got up for work, anyway) and I'm eating Sibby's organic chocolate ice cream (Scroll down. I love finding a new glowing review of this stuff every few weeks when I do a Google search on it). And remembering that I need to go start cutting up green beans for the veggie dish I'm making for the Choir rehearsal/potluck tomorrow. Aw geez. Two pounds' worth of green beans to chop. Well, that'll get out any agression I happen to have lurking inside me...

Last night Kristen and I had an evening out, just as a change. We had dinner at the Elite, which was very good as usual, then went to see a show called Forbidden Hollywood at Viterbo. Now, let me preface this rant by saying, I like Viterbo. It's an enthusiastic little school and it adds a nice flavor to La Crosse, especially with its extensive arts programs. I've only ever seen one other show there (Gaelic Storm played there a couple of years ago) but it was excellent, and I'm sure most of the other series productions, and the student productions as well, are wonderful.

But Forbidden Hollywood, an hour-and-45-minute performance with no set, four professional touring actors and a piano player, and no plot, at $22 a ticket, was just awful. The basic idea: four actors dress up in about 50 different costumes and sing bad filks of show tunes and movie themes, while doing the worst impressions of movie actors you ever saw, and sharing one microphone even during ensemble pieces, because apparently whoever's pocketing the proceeds of this production isn't spending it on equipment.

If there had been even a single funny moment I could have counted the evening well-spent (though perhaps not the entire $22). But no. I just sat there and waited to laugh. Gene Kelly's evil twin sang "My siiiiiiiiingin' is a pain...". Leonardo diCaprio and Kate Winslet did that "I'm flying" pose from Titanic about sixty times and sang "This movie goes on, and, ooooooonnnn...". Not one, but TWO different bad imitations of Barbra Streisand were presented, one early and one later on, neither of which I could understand a word of. Mammy (played by a tall black man in shuffling drag) came out and informed Vivien Leigh that she was quitting. Vivien herself wore 1940's costume but talked about how Tara was abandoned and she couldn't get that Ashley to notice her, anyway. What, was the fake 1864 ball gown at the cleaners?

The main topic of each song was either "I can't sing, so please overdub my voice", "My accent is awful", "This movie is very long", "I'm stupid" (there was a forgettable trio of Cameron Diaz, Keanu Reeves, and Melanie Griffith stumbling across the stage singing "We shouldn't be in pictures..."), or "You hated my character in the movie, now watch him/her get what s/he deserves". (Even if we really never hated the character, we did after seeing the Forbidden Hollywood skit lampooning it.)

Social commentary? The pertinent issues of the day? A ghost of a plot? These don't sell tickets, apparently. For whatever reason, the show was a sellout. We sat in the last row of the upper balcony, which probably didn't help us appreciate the spectacle of bad acting going on several hundred feet below us.

I think I offended Kristen by telling her at the intermission that if I were here alone, I'd have left by now. But it got worse. When Rolv from the Sound of Music came out in full Nazi uniform, bent on finally shooting Maria and Liesl (who, along with the rest of the Von Trapp family, now operate a ski lodge in Vermont) in the head, I put my head back and stared at the ceiling and thought, "This is the most ham-handed, offensive, poorly-put-together production I have ever seen." I tried to get some sleep but discovered that the seats have a tiny peak that isn't conducive to leaning one's head straight back. So I stared at the stage and found that the curtain of silver holographic Mylar streamers behind the actors was very pretty and sparkly, and I could almost go into a sort of trance if I concentrated hard enough on the pattern of glittery spangles being reflected up at us. That helped me through the last 20 minutes or so. It was my very favorite part of the show.

Rant can call your Grandma back into the room now. ;)

Not one, but two complete strangers stumbled onto my webpage today and wrote me to say that they liked the site. This really made my day (and it needed making, believe me). I've never seriously believed that anyone reads this, no matter how many people claim they visit it every day. I'm no journalist, I don't take part in the painfully hip and self-referential 'blog culture, I'm not going to get linked to on Metafilter or in some article on blogging. So every time someone signs my guestbook or drops me an e-mail to say they've been here, it's like a gift dropped unexpectedly in my lap. Thanks, readers, and thanks to those who reach back to me when I've reached out blindly. I won't say I wouldn't do this without you, but I would just be shouting into the empty sky if you weren't there to read and shout back.

Monday, September 09, 2002

Nice weekend: dinner and services Friday night, Saturday I got to sing with the choir during services, then we went over to the home of some family friends where six or seven families gathered. We do this every year, and every year it's exactly the same: who attends, the banter at the table, the food (apples and honey, chopped liver, salad, matzo ball soup, a fabulous Middle Eastern chicken dish with olives, brisket, kishka, potato kugel, spinach souffle; dessert is lemon poppyseed cookies, cheesecake with strawberry sauce, and chocolate mousse pie with lady fingers), the men sleeping in front of the football game afterwards. Yes, you heard it here first, Rosh Hashanah is really Thanksgiving in disguise...though we get to celebrate that too!

My favorite part of the tradition: dropping teaspoonfuls of freshly whipped cream into my coffee (they always have decaf). No sugar in either cream or coffee. None needed. Mmmmmm...

Sunday I met Alissende and her son Zach for breakfast; we went to a neato-keen brunch buffet in Sun Prairie that I never knew existed. (No, I didn't have to find something in Sun Prairie all by myself; perish the thought. I met them in front of JoAnn Fabrics near East Towne, a landmark you could have guessed I'd know well. And I even managed to keep myself from going fabric shopping on the way back!)

After that I went down to State St. to shop 'til I dropped, which, if I hadn't stopped for ice cream halfway through, might have been sooner than I intended, since it was fiendishly hot out. I didn't get much stuff of any importance; a couple of new cotton brocade napkins for SCA feasts, a new shower curtain, a sweater, $40 worth of beads and findings, and some Steep 'n' Brew French Roast coffee. On to SCA Dance practice, where only two stalwarts were relaxing in the air conditioning (it was held at Union South); after a time, Rochl and I bugged out to go see her new apartment, which is in this remarkably tall and narrow house on the near east side. Chandler joined us and we went to dinner at Kabul, then to the Jararvellir business meeting.

It was fortuitous that I had planned to go to the business meeting, because it turned out that Chandler and Heinrich planned to present their proposal for Bardic Madness XIII to the Barony. Reaction to the site and the plan was very positive. I'm glad Jara is hosting this. No offense whatsoever to the glorious and illustrious groups on the Western end of the Northshield, but I would NOT have wanted to have to drive to Castel Rouge (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) to do this for the first time! Maybe next year.

In other news, Overdue (new address:, the comic strip about a library, has changed addresses, so if you bookmarked it after I linked to it awhile back, better go amend your bookmark URL. The storyline seems to have grabbed up the loose ends I complained about in my previous entry, and run with them. (Stupid metaphor, I know. Just call me "Runs With Yarn"!) They tried to fire Buddy the Book Beaver (aka Chuck, the guy who's stuck in a woodchuck suit and was hired last-minute for the summer reading program), but he was so saddened that they relented. Colleen, the librarian who adopted a baby from China, now wants to care for it at work. Coolest of all, this blog was excerpted in the Cartoonists' Diary (about 4/5 of the way down the page). Not too shabby!

Thursday, September 05, 2002

Going to Madison tomorrow for Rosh Hashanah and for some plain-old Madison time. I need it. I've been having Madison dreams again. I wake up, and for no reason whatsoever, the taste of Mocha Mist drinks from Steep 'n' Brew comes back to me, or the sound of applause upstairs at the old Wendy's where ComedySportz used to perform, or the view over 'my corner' from the balcony outside Tropic Jewel on the corner of Gilman and State Sts. Shopping will be done, but mostly I plan to walk around and try to fill the hole in my soul with Madison for a little while, get depressed when I discover I can't do it, then soothe myself by purchasing Steep 'n' Brew bean coffee, medieval music CD's at the Exclusive Company and a necklace from The Peacock.

Then, when I'm slightly tired and sad, I'll go to Jararvellir dance practice at the Union, which (happily) no longer reminds me of my tenth high school reunion in 1999 (which was held there). Sincerely underwhelming reunion, that. I predicted everything that happened: I barely remembered anyone, met up with all of those few people I really didn't want to meet up with, didn't find most of my friends, and watched some really sad people get very, very offensively drunk.

And I danced with my friend Oli, from college, who was there with her husband Aaron, who was in my high school graduating class. There was nothing else to do for either of us. I suspect the only thing worse than being an alumna at the reunion of Madison West High School Class of 1989, is being the wife of an alumna at the same reunion...! In fact we danced together enough that people probably thought we were lesbians. You know, at a high school reunion people revert to trying to make inferences about people's lives by the way they look and act from a distance. We're so scared of each other again. Plus someone hired the loudest DJ in town to play '80's music, so we couldn't have talked to each other if we'd tried.

Oh, and I found that my arch-enemy from elementary school has grown up sleek, attractive, with nice teeth and high-fashion clothes and frosted hair and a lot of attitude, masking the fact that her life is every bit as empty as everyone else's. It was both depressing and vindicating, but you know, I really don't hate her anymore. In the end, there is nothing interesting about hating someone just because they hate and taunt you for no reason. There are so many more complex and justifiable reasons for the emotions adults feel, be it anger or whatever. If I thought she'd be interested, I would have gone up to her and apologized for the years of acrimony, and asked for her forgiveness and given her mine. But there's nothing worthwhile about such a gesture anymore. I go months, perhaps years between thinking of her. I've (and hopefully she has) moved on to other life problems, and good riddance to the 20-year-old ones!

I feel sort of acidic today (and I don't mean heartburn-y). My apologies to anyone who finds him/herself in my path. You won't dissolve, but you might be burned.

Monday, September 02, 2002

Warning: 100% SCA-related posting follows...!

Autumn Rose went pretty well. It wasn't too hot (there was an actual cool breeze that blew intermittently) and we were mobbed with SCA folk, so many that the 150+ site tokens I made were all gone by 10:00 Saturday morning. Feast sold out by 10:30 Friday night!

The Northshield Choir had a good rehearsal and a couple of very nice performances, attended by quite a few SCA folk and a few mundanes. Kudrun's Trivium Pursuit game was a blast once more, as the entire audience (except a small cheering section up at the top of the bleachers, rooting lustily for both teams) took on Viscount Niklos and Viscountess Aramanthra. For no reason I could perceive, I was picked to be team captain for the audience, meaning a) I got to pick out the little category chips specifying what our next question would be, and b) I had to try to get some kind of consensus from my team on what each answer would be. I wasn't particularly good at either--we lost, by a hair, to the good Viscount/ess--but I did answer one question out of my own head: it was about what Earl Leofric of Mercia's wife did. Thank goodness for my early and frequent reading of Richard Armour's It all started with Eve, which (if I recall correctly) has a whole chapter devoted to Lady Godiva and her naked ride through town.

Sarra had several dutiful helpers in the kitchen, and they all worked their butts off to put on one of the best feasts I've ever been to. It was served on time, it was plentiful, delicious and varied, and very, very period. I think Sarra can be really proud of all her work. And I'm not the only one who thinks that.

I had what Owen would call an a-ha moment. That would be a moment when something happens that stops you in your tracks and makes you ponder just how cool is this culture we call the SCA. I was talking to Eve on the little road in front of the merchants' building at one point during Saturday evening, and at one point I leaned forward to hug her for some reason, and I bumped against her arm; she didn't have a very good grip on her large pottery mug, and it fell and cracked open with a 'pop'.

Some people under the Rafters at the bardic circle applauded, like you do in a restaurant when you can hear someone in the kitchen drop a dish. I apologized for jostling her; she said it wasn't my fault, and it wouldn't be a big deal except it was her roommate's mug. I was still standing there apologizing when Hulda, a relatively new person from Coille Stoirmeil who sings with the Northshield Choir, came out of the merchants' building and walked up to us. Smiling, she handed Eve a ceramic stein from the Coille Stoirmeil merchant booth.

And she went back without a word. I still don't know whose idea that was. If it was Hulda's, she's to be commended for learning so quickly how to step in and commit the kind of random act of generosity that people deeply admire in the SCA. If not, she still got to participate in it, and that's pretty cool right there.

Now, of course, my task is to produce some kind of bardic work based on this incident. That's what bards do, is illuminate the a-ha moments for all to see. And my temptation is to write a challenge for Bardic Madness next year called "The Gift" about remarkable, special, heroic, compassionate, funny, or surprising gifts given in period or in the SCA, any format. (Whoops, I think I just wrote it. Well, maybe I'll use it for the mini-Bardic-Madness challenges Garraed wants me and Cerian to write for lunch periods at Bards 'n' Cooks.)

Speaking of Bardic Madness, that's one of my responsibilities as Provost: I get to write the challenges. So far I have eight written, and I want to have thirteen total: five Fyts (=challenge periods), with two to three challenges per Fyt. I have come up with three (including one I'm kind of proud of, in honor of Prince Tarrach, who will be King by that time), used two ideas contributed by others (one Northshield, one not), and included three that have been done in past years. I need maybe one more 'improv' style challenge, two 'format' challenges, and two 'thematic'. I think Dahrien has a format challenge, that can possibly be combined with one of Ysolt's ideas; Kudrun says she has some ideas too. I might plan on doing one more thematic one myself, unless I get an avalanche of great ideas when I ask for suggestions on the NCB listserv, which I'm planning to do shortly.

I thought this was going to be a tough task, writing challenges. Now I'm wondering how it's gone by so fast! The tough part is, in fact, trying to get the local hosts of Bardic Madness to come up with date/site information in a timely fashion. Sigh. Any day now, I ought to have a bid in my hand...with the operative word being 'ought'...

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