Thursday, February 27, 2003

Today, some links, and then back to your regularly scheduled musing. and Serpent Publications is one woman, Laura Conrad, providing homemade sheet music editions of early music, including a ton of John Dowland, some Lassus, Morley, Purcell, Sermisy, Susato, and one or two pieces each from many other composers (some post-period, but hey). See her composers' listing at Most pieces have the requisite PDFs, MIDIs, and other formats that some people like such as lilypond or ABC.

Fred Rogers, we hardly knew ye. The kind, self-effacing King Nerd of public television has left the studio. Fred, may it always be a beautiful day in your neighborhood. It won't be the same without you.

Haire Affaire, the springtime event of my former Shire, Falcon's Keep, has a website for the first time since I did one for them a few years back. Coincidentally, this is the first time in six years I will miss a Haire Affaire. I have a choir rehearsal to go to--not that I will be able to sing (see below), but I've already missed two rehearsals in this concert period and I wouldn't feel right about skipping it to go to an SCA event.

Tuesday morning I woke up with a tiny little bit of post-nasal drip, that gradually revealed itself to be a slow-burn cold: gradually I got more tired, I sneezed more often, until I couldn't deny that I was sick. I went to choir rehearsal Tuesday night, having warned the director that I would probably stop singing at a certain point. And I did, but didn't count on the sleepiness. I finally had to just leave, since I was falling asleep right in my chair.

Went to work Wednesday and I was all right, but today the tiredness was compounded by the faucets in the nose opening up. Which makes helping patrons kind of gross: "Sure, why don't you take a look at this book, which...which...hold on." *SNEEZE* "Oh. I'll be right back." (Jennifer runs like hell across the library, hand around her nose, and grabs a kleenex just as liquid is about to drip off the bottom edge of her hand; she then does a mop job on what seems like gallons of mucus, going through three kleenexes, then returns to the patron). "All right, now where were we?" (Patron backs away slowly.)

So I left at noon, came back home, and was going to just lie down for a little while and read, but I fell asleep and woke up when my alarm went off at 6:30 (my new alarm clock doesn't have an AM/PM designation; if I forget to turn it off in the morning, it goes off again at 6:30 pm). I've been up ever since, watching TV, putting together the White Birch, and dripping. Today I am Kimberley-Clark's best customer. But I'll probably go back to sleep soon. Tomorrow I hope to be back to work, as I've been trying to save vacation days recently.

Well, I guess if I had to get sick, the best time to do it was now: after Bardic Madness and before the spring choir concert. I have very little going on this month--I'm missing Haire Affaire and then the Northshield A&S Faire (not that I was ever planning on going, but still, it's the principle) due to the choir rehearsal, then a special event for work. No events until the 22nd (Musicians Day; Alissende and I are driving down). I feel like I'm just treading water for most of this month, at least in non-work pursuits. Maybe I need that, who knows.

Monday, February 24, 2003

This weekend, I found out just how many friends I have. How many is that? Why, 187. (Plus a dozen or so who weren't able to make it.)

I'm still awaiting a final Troll count from Bardic Madness, but that was the estimate. Suffice to say, it was quite a bit more than the site was designed to hold. I noticed the site's petite size as Heinrich was walking me through first thing Friday night. And I thought, "We are going to get cozy at this event."

But once we got into the swing of things, size didn't matter (see boys? It's true!). Some areas were crowded, but we got used to it quickly--and anyway, the high concentration of bodies made up for a somewhat sluggish heating system. Experts arranged feast so it was possible to get everyone in, and during the day, there was always room up front. And anyway, I loved the site, small though it was: it had wood everywhere, utterly medieval wrought iron chandeliers, lots of natural light, three cozy classrooms and a very sweet royalty room with handpainted Scandinavian murals on the walls, acoustics to die for, and the crowning glory: a big honking inlaid compass star in the center of the main hall floor. The place screamed Northshield louder than any building or site I've ever seen. I am so grateful to the Barony for coming up with it. (And you'd better believe I've already written the site owners to thank them profusely for their kindness in allowing us to use their gorgeous and acoustically perfect building. I would like the goodwill to continue, so maybe someday I can attend more nice cozy events there.)

What made the most (really, only) conspicuous difference between how I wanted Bardic Madness Lucky Number Thirteen to go, and how it actually went, was: enthusiasm. What do I mean? Well, the only problem we had to wrestle with was getting an hour off-schedule during one particular challenge. This was the authenticity challenge suggested by Ysolt. I put 15 lines on each sign-up sheet, and people roundly ignored that implied limit and just kept signing up. This happened with other challenges too, but the authenticity challenge was the one that made the schedule get pushed back an hour. The upshot was that we had to juggle things a bit: that challenge got split so we could do the Royal Challenge on time, the second class period started an hour late, then a challenge from the fourth fyt had to be pushed forward to feast.

So there I was, in the thick of my very first Bardic Madness as Provost, lightheaded with joy simply because we had managed to start on time, confronted with the bizarre problem of too many people wanting to participate in challenges. I mean, I was prepared for some things: I had thought of ways to deal with participant shyness. I had thought of ways to encourage those I wanted to see perform. I had thought of ways to graciously thank one to two people for being the token performers in an unpopular challenge. I had carefully augmented the signup table with handouts to provide lots of additional guidance, for people wanting to contribute but perhaps not having enough background info to sit down and write something they'd feel comfortable sharing.

I was obviously on crack. No one was having any problem sharing, that I could see. We were forehead-deep in willing and enthusiastic performers. The only question was where all these fabulous performances were coming from--and how we were going to fit everyone in and still vacate site by 11 pm. Is Rosamund reading that Wyndreth-quality Norse poem, and omigawd, did she write that perfect sestina too? Is that Garraed and Wyndreth up there singing a duet for the first time ever, unrehearsed? Is that Colin doing Robina's gorgeous Northshield song and making her cry, and Rochl doing Owen's Evensong, with multi-harmony drone from the distributed Northshield Choir, and making Owen cry? Did I hear Vlad reading poetry in perfect Old English? Was Kudrun singing a Northshield song to the tune of "A l'entrada del temps clar" or did I dream that? Where did the bards of Ealdormere get that sound? HOW many people took impossibly weird sonnet first lines and turned them into works of art ("My hovercraft is really full of eels" became a paean to a fine boat and a load of free seafood)? Are all those classrooms really as packed with fascinated students as they look (they were, I checked)? Is Amelie holding yet another baby (yup, she has two now) and dancing it around the performance area while she sings a little song in old French, just like she did at my first Bardic Madness three years ago? HOW many excellent harpers did we have at this event anyway? And did I really get up and do "Three Words" from memory perfectly (with Kestra accompanying...I am blessed), on a day when I knew I couldn't count on myself to get two brain cells to fire in logical sequence--and did I imagine that tidal wave of applause? What? Who? How is it possible for one person (me) to smile so continuously at one event, when during the rest of the week, I often have trouble getting a real smile to appear on my face?

In the end, I didn't truly care that we were one hour off. I couldn't possibly care--I mean, look why we were off!

The feedback from attendees, including the Stellar Heirs, Leif and Astrid, was nothing but postive--wildly so, from some people. I still can't believe everything went so well. I won't do an event run-down here, or a thank-you note; as a member of the event staff, I don't have a complete set of memories from the event, and I've done my thank-yous elsewhere. But I will say I loved every minute of it, and I don't think my worries last week about how I'd get through it were merited.

I did not want to be alone Sunday, after all that--and Mom and Dad had their own stuff to get done that day, so they weren't going to be home. So I went out to lunch with much of the Ealdorbards crew (they sent 10 total, eight of whom stayed with Chandler) on Sunday. They are so much fun. They complained about America's completely bizarre road system (a carload got lost on the other side of Madison and did not make it until mid-afternoon), snarfed up pancakes, showed me a cool Canadian coin with a polar bear on it, and talked about how much they want to do a Bardic Madness Ealdormere. I told them I'd be there. How could I not?

I had planned on going shopping after that, but I just haven't been in a shopping mood recently. To my relief, Chandler and Dahrien were willing to stick around and hang out with me for the afternoon, which was wonderful fun. Despite both being way sleepier than me (and Dahrien having to eventually get back to Milwaukee), they kept me company and allowed me to decompress from the event. It was actually necessary. If I had just gotten in my car and gone off to Hilldale Mall or something, I might have burst into tears in the middle of Marshall Fields from the sheer cognitive dissonance between Saturday and Sunday's activities!

I could go on and on about this weekend. I'm still assimilating all of it, and my head will spin gently until I get a critical mass of it understood. It was good, good, good. I'm still slightly scared to take credit. Maybe I'll always be slightly scared to take credit. Maybe that's not a bad thing. Modesty was considered becoming in period. ;)

Now, off to catch up on my remaining sleep deficit from this weekend!

Thursday, February 20, 2003

This week will NEVER END...! I swear it has been a month since my last post. Note to myself for next year: do NOT leave a series of empty evenings before Bardic Madness just in case something big goes wrong and I have to spend a lot of time rectifying it. What happens is I end up with these looong evenings stretching out in front of me, tempting me to kill brain cells by sitting on my couch and watching American Idol and such muck.

At least tonight, I had a couple of nice phone conversations, with Robina and then Cerian. Cerian (who is the Provost of Bardic Madness South, the analogous event to Bardic Madness which takes place in the rest of the Midrealm) was calling to tell me to do the things he had forgotten to do before BMS in November. I had taken care of all of them but one: I hadn't figured out the 20 words and tunes for Tangle Box. And I would have forgotten! So I was very glad he called, both for reminding me and just to lend moral support. He's a good guy.

But I was going to try to find non-Bardic-Madness-related things to put in my blog. Okay. Let's see.

I sort of like this, Weebl. It's the life and times of what appears to be a weeble (tm), who talks with sort of an Adam-Sandler-meets-Tarzan-on-crystal-meth slurred growl. The main plot line of all the cartoons seems to be that Weebl loves pie (Sarra, how did we miss using this in the promotional materials for the Pie Snit?). Don't look to Weebl for intellectual stimulation. What I really like about Weebl and his little weeble-shaped friends is that while the inane slurred chatter is coming out of your speakers, Weebl is wobbling gently back-and-forth in a most satisfying manner. In fact, the first time I saw Weebl, I had the speakers turned off and didn't even know there was a soundtrack; I read the speech balloons and watched Weebl wobble smoothly in front of me for several minutes. I was mesmerized. I feel the same way about weebles (tm) and about that little business-card-holder I got for free from some promotions company, which is weighted and wobbles in a similar manner. There's something just visceral about that type of motion...what can I say?

You know what? That's it. That's the last thought in my head that is not related to either Bardic Madness or work. I'm paring down to the essentials here. The next entry will probably be Sunday or Monday night, and I'll have lots to say about the event. Until then, some of you will see me at the event, some not, but if you don't make it, send a little positive thought my way on Saturday. I've never done this before.

Quite frankly, I don't think there could ever be such a thing as a bad Bardic Madness short of the site burning down or neo-Nazis crashing the event. No, I worry mostly about how I personally will get through the event without going completely manic, panicking over some small problem, saying the wrong thing to someone because my brain is occupied with six things at once, making some large mistake, or--and this is critical--forgetting to have fun. I'm at the helm of this event because I believe in it and I want to give this to the bardic community, but the reason I believe in it and want to give it to the bardic community is because I have experienced it and it's so much fun. If I lose that fun, act in such a way that keeps me from experiencing it, then not only will it be a personal loss for me, it'll also mean I will be less and less able to creatively pilot this event over time. And I hope to be doing this for a good long time. So I need to find a way to not just survive, but enjoy. You wouldn't think it'd be hard; I've done it before--just never before as captain!

We'll see how I manage. Good luck to me, and happy Bardic Madness to everyone!

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Countdown four days until Bardic Madness. Besides recurring nightmares (well, not so much nightmares as quizzical, confused dreams) that I am late to the event and the first few Fyts are over by the time I arrive, I think I'm doing okay. I stopped at Walgreen's on the way home from choir tonight and got a few supplies: pencils, paper, coffee cups, spoons, etc. I thought of getting string to suspend the sign-up pencils from the wall next to the sign-up sheets, then I remembered Rokeclif's Big Honking Thing of String, donated by my place of work early on in my tenure there, when we did a storage-closet-cleaning and no one else wanted it. It lives in my garage, with the Autumn Rose decor supplies. Hey, we can always use string in the SCA. I'll put it in the car tomorrow.

Listening to the recording from the La Crosse Chamber Chorale's La Crosse concert a couple of weekends ago. We sounded pretty good, I think. The harpist had a brief train wreck (choir code, meaning: complete confusion leading to harmonic/polyphonic collapse; music ceased to happen) on the first page of the Holst "Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda", but we went on without him for a couple of measures and I don't think anyone noticed. The accompaniment is supposed to be pretty minimalist anyway. He recovered and the rest was fine. I didn't think I'd end up liking that piece, and I guess I wouldn't sell my soul to sing it again, but it has some appealing spots. Our performance of Hatfield's "Missa Brevis" was a little more shiny--you can always tell which piece in a concert is the choir's favorite. I'd sell quite a few things to sing that "Kyrie" based on "The Fold of Kintail" again. Would that the tune sounded more pre-1600; I'd filk it in a second.

At any rate, it's nice to hear it all again. I really like this choir's practice of recording and making CD's of every concert, just for the singers to have a memento. We pay $5 for a CD, which covers bare-bones production costs; I'm not sure who covers the cost of the professional recording engineer who comes and records each concert. Maybe it's just paid for out of the Choir coffers, I don't know. In my high school days, I had to beg my parents to hold a tape recorder through a concert in order to get a recording. Then, when I was at the UW, I had to go down stairs and up hallways in the Humanities building to find that large scary guy who managed the recording studio for the music department, ask if he'd be so kind as to make a copy of his recording of a specific concert for me, and negotiate a price and pickup time with him. (He was never around when I came back to get the tape. Sometimes it'd be weeks before I managed to get him to answer the door to the recording studio.) Things were somewhat simpler at Lawrence; concert recordings were on reserve in the Media Center in the library for a month after each performance, so you could just stop by at your leisure and listen, or make a dub for yourself if you happened to have a blank tape. But I like best being able to just buy a pre-made CD, labeled and everything.

I'm looking for non-Bardic-Madness-related things to say in my 'blog today, and just not coming up with any. Tell you what, I'll think about it and write more in the next few days...

Sunday, February 16, 2003

I'd like to highly recommend Just Tomatoes' new dehydrated peaches and apricots. Especially the peaches. They are both completely nummy. I ate half the package of peaches at one sitting. Note to self: dried fruit expands in the stomach. Unnhhhhh...

Yesterday I relaxed as much as I could possibly wish. I did some reading, took a long shower, took several phone calls from friends and from Bardic Madness event staff, then went out to dinner with Valgarth and Ariella. They're fun to hang out with, both because they have all kinds of great stories about SCA folk from before I was in the SCA, and just because they're so nice. We went to Fayze's, where we had the sort of meal I've come to expect from Fayze's: serviceable, but somehow never quite as good as you'd like. But the company made up for it. (Incidentally, from the outside, Fayze's pretty much looks just like the photo on the webpage right now: large blue awning and a pile of dirty snow on the curb. Why any Wisconsin business would want to take their publicity photo in February is beyond me, unless it's a snowmobile dealer or ski resort. But I digress.)

I feel way better now than I did for most of the rest of the week. I guess my nervousness and stress was in large part due to something else, not just the event. Now that that something else is over, my freaking out has been cut by a healthy percentage. I mean, I'm going to worry until we put away the last broom and lock up site at eleven next Saturday night, but it's a healthy sort of worry. Jararvellir was the right group to pick to do my first Bardic Madness as Provost. They know what they're doing, they're quick on the uptake when a problem or question comes up, and they already understand why this is an important and fun event. While I deal with my little irrational worries, each member of the event staff is working in his/her own sphere to make the event happen. It's sorta humbling actually.

Off to do some laundry and work on event preparations.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Much better now than I have been during the rest of this week. I hit a low point last night while driving around the industrial park area in the northern part of La Crosse, looking to pick up the package UPS had been trying to deliver for three days. Am I the only person who's noticed that UPS isn't really set up for customer service? They have a tiny little customer pickup desk hidden behind one of the truck docks in their anonymous-looking warehouse, on a street that splits funny, in the industrial park area of town, with no parking to speak of, won't deliver anything on evenings or weekends, won't leave a package without your signing for it personally, and lose bits of information that you give them. Well, I'm sorry, I work during their delivery hours, and my place of employment doesn't allow delivery of personal packages at work. So, to pick up a package, I have to drive up to the Giant Industrial Maze a half hour from my apartment.

Example: I gave them my home and work numbers and asked them to call me at work to verify when the package would be ready. I never heard from them at work, and when I called before leaving, I spoke to someone else who said my work number was not on their paperwork. Later, I found that I had two messages on my home answering machine, promising that the package would be ready at 5:30 if I wanted to pick it up. I arrived at 6:25 and it wasn't there. The person at the desk said she thought it would be just a few minutes, if I wanted to just pop over to Festival Foods and do my shopping. I had been driving around for 45 minutes, taking wrong turn after wrong turn, after the day from hell, and I told her, "No, I need to get home," and drove the half-hour back to my apartment. As I walked in the door, the phone was ringing with yet another clerk calling to tell me my package was ready to pick up now. I told that person, between clenched teeth, that they should return the package to the sender, and that in the future, I would not be dealing with companies that do not offer a U.S. Mail shipping option.

Guess what was on my door today as I walked in after work? An InfoNotice from UPS for a completely different package. I'm debating just ignoring the InfoNotices and letting it get sent back to the sender, but I don't know what it is; at least, with the one I had tried to pick up yesterday, I was aware of what it was and didn't need it urgently. (Pattern for a ghawazee coat I'd like to make for a Middle Eastern costume, for the Chamber Chorale's May Feaste event. It's from a pattern line that's carried by several merchants. I'll find one that will send it U.S. Mail.) Maybe I'll do a little checking on this one before refusing to drive up to the Giant Industrial Maze.

My friend Randall called to chat about bardic things last night, and I had a nice calming conversation with him. I sure needed that.

This week ended quite a bit better than I thought it would. Some days I can't help but count myself lucky: someone has stayed the Hand of Doom before it whacked me in the head again. So to speak. The thing I was worried about all week was not as bad as I thought it would be, leaving me able to enjoy my weekend. In response to my last posting, I got an invitation from Tace (hi Tace!) and the Riverwatch crew to come down for archery and movie time in Dubuque. I'm thinking I won't--not that it doesn't sound like fun, but I think I need to take a day and just be quiet and think. Not to mention, I need to sleep in...!

Tonight I compiled the silly first lines for the "Sonnet Prompt" challenge for Bardic Madness. I had to do some looking through my e-mail archives to find the fun first lines that fellow bards contributed, back when Adelaide suggested this challenge. There are some doozies. I won't post any of them here, knowing that some bardic folk read my page. Some things are a secret until the day of the event. You'll just have to wait. ;)

I also started work on the knit top and skirt I'm making. (Butterick sent out the replacement instruction page for my pattern on Monday, the day after I e-mailed them to ask for it, and it arrived Wednesday. SOME companies know how to do customer service!) Problem: all the pattern pieces have, prominently inscribed, the words "Suitable for moderate stretch knits ONLY". This wasn't on the outside of the package. I invested in $30 worth of acrylic knit fabric with a stretch that's, well...something more than moderate. I can't tell, as of yet, whether it's going to work. Everything is cut out, and I've sewn the front and back of the top together, attached a rather fiddly stand-up collar, and gotten part of one sleeve sewn on. It's not a difficult pattern, but the fabric isn't at all easy to work with; I probably should have stuck with a good solid cotton interlock. (But all they had were yucky colors!) More updates as I get more done.

Tomorrow: signup sheets for challenges, possible shopping for supplies, and much sleep.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

I'm listening to a new purchase, Cynara by Anuna. If you like Celtic, choral, and/or New-Agey-type music, I really recommend Anuna. They are a choir, but have none of that self-conscious quality of most choirs: "Hey, listen to us, we sound pretty neat, we practiced lots!" They blend, they have this calm musicality, and their arrangements are amazing. Michael McGlynn does pseudo-medieval much better than, say, the woman who does the arrangements for Medieval Baebes. And he picks texts just as well (and sets them better). As usual, the texts are mostly Latin or Irish (or Latin from Ireland), with a few in English or other languages.

Invocation is my favorite Anuna recording, mostly because I listened to it a lot in 1997 when I had just moved to Marshfield, was enjoying my job, and was beginning to go to SCA events. It has happy evocations. I think Cynara is better musically: the arrangements are more subtle and sophisticated, the singers sound incredible, and the whole thing manages to sound more musically complex without adding any instruments besides the occasional drum, and a violin and harp on one track. But will I have happy feelings associated with listening to this recording? Who knows.

I had a headache last night, and it was snowing and blowing out, so I decided to stay home from choir rehearsal. From a social standpoint, this was probably not the best idea. It means that (outside of work), since Sunday evening, I've been at home all alone, and will be home all alone until this Sunday early afternoon. What am I doing with all this time home alone? I'm doing laundry and dishes, beadwork, watching American Idol (so sue me), tweaking webpages, e-mailing people, puttering around on my computer and causing it to crash repeatedly, and worrying.

(Oh yes, and I attempted to start cutting out the fabric for my new outfit, only to discover that my pattern packet contains two page 3's and no pages 1 or 2. I'm not such a confident seamstress that I can just shrug and assume the instructions contain nothing I can't deduce from the pattern pieces. You just never know what those pattern companies are going to ask you to do in their instructions. On the bright side, I e-mailed Butterick, which makes See&Sew patterns, and told them my predicament, and they sent out replacement pages the next day.)

Having time on your hands, being alone, and worrying do not make a very good combination. This week is not going to end up well, and I won't have anything to dive into Friday night or Saturday to take my mind off of it. It's not that I need someone to talk to about it, or about any of my problems or worries; it's that I think I might need a person or an event to distract me from myself after Friday, or I'll collapse into a pile of mournfulness.

And worry. Bardic Madness is coming up. I have autocrated events before, and I know the veil of quiet that descends during the 7-10 days before an event, if you've done all your work in advance and are pretty much ready. It's dark and silent and you have no idea, you can't see, if there's anything you've forgotten to do, if there's anything you should be doing with this time, if there's anything you will regret not spending time on, once the day of the event arrives. You worry constantly and everyone on the event staff keeps saying, "Yup, it's all taken care of, it's going to be great, I don't think I have any questions". It's hell.

It's almost enough to make me want to dodge responsibilities early on, just to give me something to legitimately panic about during this blank time. No, that would be sabotage, that wouldn't be honest. But almost anything would be better than this! It's worse as Provost, because I have delegated everything that needs doing during this period of time, and have nothing left to do. At least as Autocrat I was still putting together site tokens during the week before the event...!

There are still a few things to do, though. And if I know myself, I'll be spending the hours between 3 and 4 am, over the next half-dozen nights, suddenly remembering them, then worrying enough about them to keep me from getting back to sleep.

Sunday, February 09, 2003

The event yesterday was fun, despite the fact that I felt sort of sleepy and logy all day. I didn't pay much attention to the tourney taking place in the gym, except to peek in once or twice while looking for someone. Boy, say what you will about knights, if you get them together and fighting in a space that enclosed, with only heat and no air conditioning, they smell terrible.

We had a longish Northshield Choir rehearsal in the corner of the school's cafeteria, which was a glassed-in, sunny space. Unfortunately this meant I was even more tired, sitting in a sunbeam in the relatively quiet and pleasant room, than I had been before. I'm afraid I was kind of a pill to the conductor (my apologies, if he's reading this). I wonder if taking a nap would have helped. But I try not to do that at events. We have a short enough time to spend in the Current Middle Ages; why waste it in sleep, right?

I never did find Ysolt to practice our duet for Bardic Madness--in fact, I never saw her all day, so I don't even know whether she was at the event. At this time of year in the upper Midwest, the dual threat of car problems and crippling colds/flu means that it isn't uncommon for people to just not show up at events. It happens.

Court was nice, if longish. The Baronial changeover was fun and full of shtick. Raito's knighting was very ceremonial and very cool--he did his oath in Japanese! And my performance went pretty well, if I can judge from the reaction of Windhaven. I did sort of mess up by starting singing before Leaina was announced, but I think everyone just decided to overlook that little mistake, including me. (Some days, you gotta choose not to beat yourself up.) I couldn't tell how the song was going over during the performance, much less whether anyone could hear, so as the one joke in the song approached ("And most of all, Skol! to the mead that they brew"), I decided to give a moment for laughter between that line and the final chorus, and see if anyone was listening. I was rewarded by appreciative laughter from about 3/4 of the hall, and I immediately felt better; here was a hall--a middle school gym--with acoustics I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, and I was doing okay on making myself understood through most of the space. That made me wish I'd put the joke earlier in the song, to spare myself some of the worry while I sang...!

After Court, Dahrien and Mysie charged up to me with three silver star-shaped mylar balloons in tow, and handed them to me. It took me a minute to get the joke: at the Bardic Buddies gathering a couple of weeks ago, which I couldn't make due to being at Trivia, Dahrien and Alienor came up with ideas for action figures for many of the bards in the Northshield, complete with characteristic accessories. Mine came with three word balloons. Get it--"Three Words" balloons? The continuation of the joke, Mysie's idea, was getting me the mylar balloons. Each one had an index card with one of the three words of the Northshield motto taped to it: Ducere, Ministrare, Illuminare. It'd be sorta silly, if the balloons weren't so pretty and if it didn't touch my heart so much that my friends thought of me, even when I couldn't be there. Thanks, guys. How did you know I love mylar balloons?

After Court I went to eat at Old Country Buffet with Owen, Christian, and Colin and Charissa and family. They were all driving back to Minneapolis after dinner, and I was late joining them because I took a long time leaving site, then had to stop for gas and a windshield swipe. So we didn't have too much time to hang out before everyone had to get on the road. I went and checked into my motel, then went over to the AmericInn where the Windhaven bunch was partying.

I'll tell you...there's no party like a Windhaven party. They aren't bardic; you won't find Middle Eastern dancers or drummers. You won't find knights telling testosterone-driven "No s___, there I was" stories (though Windhaven's one knight was telling a few of those out in the lobby when I arrived). What you'll find is huge amounts of food and the finest drink anywhere, together with fun and wacky hosts who are very happy to be imbibing as much as their guests are, and who have been around long enough to rack up scores of the kind of stories that only get told when the group is on its fourth or fifth bottle of Windhaven mead. Couple that (no pun intended) with some of the biggest flirts in the the Principality, and you've got a good time on your hands. Even droopy me, who had momentarily considered just going to bed after checking into the motel, perked up and had fun (Grimmund helped...). Madeleine and Aleksandr insisted I sing again, and I was giggling enough that I had to take some deep breaths and shake my face out before I could sing! (And I don't even drink.)

Windhaven is still considering hosting the next Known World Bardic/Cooking event, if they can find a site and a date and if all parties are agreeable. I can just picture my Ealdormerean friends goggling in wonder when confronted with Windhaven hospitality. I mean, we had a wonderful time at the event in Ealdormere, but (and no offense is intended here) I have a feeling Windhaven would take a slightly more...over-the-top approach. Only a suspicion. ;)

Anyway, today I slept in, then made my way back to La Crosse, where I stopped at Hancock and bought fixings for an outfit I plan to make. Don't freak: it's a mundane outfit. Lately I haven't felt like clothes shopping much, so I found a cheap pattern for a knit top and skirt, and figured I would see if knit fabrics are more fun to sew than woven. I found a nice poly knit in a dark greyish-navy heather, and cute elastic trim with a loopy edge to go with it. The fabric is in the dryer now--better go see how well/poorly it washes up...

Oh, looks nice. This should be fun to work with. I may start cutting this week if I have time. I think it's a good idea for me to have a non-SCA project going on during the time leading up to Bardic Madness. There is always more time to sit and worry than you think there's going to be, before an event that you're in charge of, and hopefully this will take up a little of the slack.

Apropos of nothing, here is a sort of gentle and sweet approach to torturing small animals: Squirrel Fishing, from two Harvard Engineering/Applied Science students. It may seem stupid (all right, it is stupid), but for people like me who can't eat or handle fish due to allergies, Squirrel Fishing may actually be a viable way to use sticks and pieces of string to attract and trap specimens of animal life while sitting on my butt on the grass. In my copious spare time, I mean. *snort*

Friday, February 07, 2003

I feel SO much better about life today than I have in a couple of weeks. To celebrate, I went to the People's Food Co-op to get groceries, and bought all kinds of favorite stuff. Every so often I like to have a "weird food meal", actually a sort of antipasto meal, where I put a bunch of little nibbly things I love on a plate and have them for dinner. Roma tomato slices with salt and pepper, tiny fresh mozzarella balls, nicoise olives, shaved ham, garlic lovers' pasta salad, and grapes. Num num. Then I worked on some stuff on the computer while "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" played on the VCR. I suppose it's a pretty modest celebration evening, but hey. I don't need much.

Tomorrow: I'm driving up to Chippewa Falls for the Tournament of Chivalry. The tournament itself isn't important to me--something about a bunch of knights getting together and agreeing to fight everyone else, or something, I don't know. As usual it's the musical and social stuff that attracts me to this event: the Northshield Choir will be rehearsing, Ysolt and I are going to practice a piece we're preparing for the duet challenge at Bardic Madness, and I'm singing in Court for the Baronial changeover of Windhaven (as I mentioned in the last couple of posts). It'll be nice to see friends and hang out a bit.

Since I'm not going to Coronet this season due to a conflict with the MLA conference, this is the last event at which I'll see King Tarrach and Queen Fina on the thrones of the Midrealm. Check out the new picture on Their website. They are so beautiful as King and Queen. I've said that this is the first and last time I've cared one bit about the Midrealm King and Queen, and it's true. Others have done the occasional cool thing, looked regal in Their robes, given accolades that I solidly agreed with (or was honored by), but in the end They always packed up and went home to Ohio or Michigan or wherever They've been from. For Tarrach and Fina, when they're in the Northshield, they are already home. They are ours, Northshielders, even with the ornate Midrealm crowns on their heads.

I remember Court at Coronet last fall. Coronet fell between Coronation and Crown Tourney, which meant that while we had two sets of Northshield Royalty, the Midrealm only had one at the time. Court consisted of Prince Robert and Princess Isabella, new Heirs Leif and Astrid, and King Tarrach and Queen Fina. I looked up at these people, six smiles on six Royal faces, and I thought, right now we're in charge. If the Northshield went nuts and declared secession right now, we'd take all the Royalty of the Middle Kingdom with us. Kind of a silly thought, but even so. It was just nice that all the Midrealm Royalty was from the Northshield, and for the first (and last) time ever, Northshield Coronet was solely a Northshield affair: no King from 1000 miles to the east, to remind us that we aren't yet free. Of course that wasn't formally true, since the King of the Midrealm is still the King of the Midrealm even if he lives in North Dakota. But that's what it felt like.

I'm driving alone to this event, and staying alone in a motel room...sort of strange. For the first couple of years of my SCA career I drove pretty much everywhere alone, because I was driving alone a lot for work and it seemed natural, both psychologically and sometimes geographically, to do the same on the weekends. Once I discovered how much fun it was to travel with friends, I started doing it most every event, and never looked back. I still do enjoy driving alone, as long as the weather is good and I'm not in a lonesome mood. But now I think it's sort of lonely to arrive alone at an event, spend time with friends, then go to sleep in a dead-quiet room and drive back all alone the next day, no one to talk to, no one to hash over the event with me. At least I've been invited to a post-revel with the Windhaven folk at the AmericInn tomorrow night. It'd be way sadder to just pack up my stuff at the end of the event and just go to the motel and go to sleep.

Now: off to go select my outfit for tomorrow. I'm such a clothes horse.

p.s.--My favorite picture of Tarrach and Fina: TRMs around A.S. XX, or 1987. Tarrach was an apple-cheeked Tom Cruise in armor, and Fina (then Fiona?) has this look on her face that says simultaneously, "He's MINE, girls," and "He may be cute, but I'm the beautiful one"...!

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Lookit me, I'm up too late again. Whoops. Oh well, whatcha gonna do, besides spending MORE of my evening typing at a computer...

I worked late tonight. Actually, I was putting together the WHSLA Newsletter (you can see previous examples of my editorship by clicking on "Communications", then "Newsletter"), which is not so much work-related as profession-related. I only did it at work because that's where I have access to the e-mail account where I receive newsletter submissions. Anyway, I was at my desk until 5 wrapping up the day's loose ends, and then I migrated to another room where I plowed through 95% of the January/February issue in about 3 1/2 hours. It needed to be done, and it kinda felt good, though it did mean I had a handful of chocolate-covered almonds for dinner. (Nuts are good for you! Right?...right?)

I feel kind of philosophical today. Since getting home, I've been running amuck on a non-Northshield bardic listserv I'm on, where I suddenly (after weeks of silence on my part) got fed up with the general attitude of the bards on the list. Though they are unbelievably, sometimes supernaturally nice about it, the feeling seems to be that: 1. we are good bards, 2. a lot of bards are bad because their performances are yucky, and 3. we need to find ways to either change them into good bards (by talking a lot to them about how they can improve) or get them to stop performing. The number of times people on-list have used judgement-laden adjectives to describe "bad" bards (lackluster, off-key, whispering, oblivious, etc., in just the last day or so) on that list is starting to make me angry. What right do we have to insist that everyone live up to our standards at all times? Further, why do people feel this obligation to inform everyone, including the performer, when (s)he isn't up to those standards?

Yes, I admit there are people I don't like to hear sing (or read poetry, or tell a story, etc.) If you want to know who these are and what I don't like about them, we can find a private place to talk about it and I'll tell you. I'll tell you in excruciating, graphic detail, and I won't go easy on Laurels or others of rank, either. (Shocking truth: there is at least one bardic Laurel whose singing voice I very much dislike. That doesn't mean there aren't a lot of other things I admire about him, not the least of which is that he writes incredibly catchy, tuneful songs in persona, that bring me into what I consider to be a medieval mindset really, really fast. But I'd rather hear other people sing them, not him. Oooh! Listen to me, getting all catty!)

But I don't consider criticism to be the work of the bard. At least not the bard whose main goal is to have fun and make music with friends. Let someone else take a "bad" bard aside and tell them what they're doing wrong and how they should fix it, probably ruining their event in the process. I would prefer to give that "bad" bard a smile and tell them what they did was cool and ask if they are going to Bardic Madness so we can hear more from them, and give them a songsheet at the next post-revel so they can learn some of the favorites and sing along. (Even a bard with serious performance issues, normally very hard to listen to, can melt my heart by looking enchanted as they're learning "Shield My Kinsmen".) If after several events and several fun post-revels, the "bad" bard doesn't mellow, start listening to the good things going on around them, and begin to improve...well, they are probably not very interested in the bardic arts in the first place, and will end up spending their SCA time at some other pursuit. I've seen that happen, too, and it's fine.

Those are the parts of the rant that I didn't put on the list. Probably there is very little overlap between readers of this page and membes of that particular list. At least, I hope so. Because I realize I'm being kind of needlessly critical of the list. I think this rant ends here, at least for now. People know how I feel, and they know some of where my opinions and feelings come from, and that's plenty for right now.

Update on my Windhaven song (the one I'm singing in Court on Saturday): once I learned the tune, it all started to gel and grow on me. I'm actually sort of proud of it now. Caught myself whistling the tune the other day at work. I sent it to the person who commissioned it, who told me she loved it, and that was enough for me: I've fixed the wording and scansion issues here and there, I've learned the tune and now it's ready. I'll be fine on Saturday.

Oh yes, that reminds me, I have to reserve a motel room for Saturday night...!

Sunday, February 02, 2003

Just noticed that I hadn't updated since last Sunday...! Shame on me. My apologies to my (small but dedicated band of) readers.

Trivia finished just like I'd predicted: we came in fourth (despite getting a 25-point garruda, which energized us, but which almost all the competitive teams also got). This meant that instead of going down to campus to pick up our prize like the top 3 teams do, we cleaned up in a leisurely fashion, and sat down to talk over the weekend. We all agreed that networking the computers had worked splendidly, that we had all worked our butts off, and that no one could have known the 3rd place team (the one I played for in 1997, the year I flew in from North Dakota to Appleton just for the contest) would do so well this year. There were suggestions for next year: some fanciful, some worth thinking about. And I was out of there and checked into my motel room by 1.

I didn't go to sleep right away. I thought it was only fitting, on finding myself alone in Appleton and still coasting on Trivia energy, to sit down and start the song I promised to (soon-to-be) Baroness Leaina on the occasion of her and Dagr's elevation to the Baronial seat of Windhaven. (I mean, there I was IN Windhaven--it was only fitting.) I wrote about half of it that night, then wrote the rest this past Friday night, when I also came up with a tune. Overall I am still ambivalent about it. It tells the story all right: okay flow, okay pacing, okay wording, maybe a little opaque unless you already know the story, but all of Windhaven does. Just like "Three Words", I borrowed a tune from SCA period for the chorus ("Quem Pastores Laudavere", Germany, 1555) and then made up a vaguely compatible verse tune. I even fit the word "amphiptere" in, though it doesn't scan perfectly, but whatcha gonna do with a word like that? I only use it once; the rest of the time Windhaven's totem winged snake is referred to as "Mother of Winds", "the serpent", or by her proper name, "Bo-Tii", which I think will be confusing to non-Windies but it really doesn't matter.

I'm going to sing it three times every night this week. The tune is new enough to me that if I don't do that, even with the words on the page in front of me, I'm going to lose the tune and have to stop and start during the performance. Which performance, by the way, is only six days away. I am not freaking out. I am not freaking out. I am NOT freaking out...

I had another candy-based dream last night: I was in the trendy shopping district of a strange city, traveling with my parents. They pointed out to me a tiny corner storefront selling handpainted beads and imported chocolate--a store so small only a few people fit into it at a time, but selling really incredible handmade items. Promising my parents I'd only look around for a minute, I went inside, then discovered the store had different sections as you went back, some fairly large, most featuring unusual chocolates and candies from all over the world. I kept going and started to forget where I'd been, circling around displays and then discovered that the surrounding displays did not look familiar as I came back around. There was a display with hundreds of varieties of imported chocolates of various kinds, with small samples available in little cups, all in Christmas-themed packages for some reason, and hence on deep discount (as most Christmas-themed goods are in the early part of the New Year). I was loading my arms up with packages from this display, but every time I circled around the display there were new items, and some of the items I'd been intending to buy had disappeared.

I looked up, out a window, and saw my parents standing in an alcove near an entrance to another store on the street, looking impatient. So I hurried up, and tried to find the gold-leaf-painted beads that I had been intrigued with on the way into the store, but I couldn't find them or the checkout. Instead I went down a moodlit hallway and found the entrance to a large and rather imposing movie theatre, and I remember wondering how deep into the block of buildings I was by this time. That's when I woke up, and thankfully so, because I had been worried about how I was going to buy all these chocolates I had selected, and whether it was okay to take them this far out of the store area, and how I was going to get back to my parents and apologize to them.

Again, I offer no possible interpretation as to what the recurring theme of imported candies and chocolates means in the context of my dream life...but I can tell you this: I woke up craving Kinder Egg, and was very pleased with myself for having bought so many at Tatiana's booth at Twelfth Night!

Yesterday: went to That Moot Thingy III, where I hung out with friends, rehearsed with the Northshield Choir, and generally relaxed. I had to leave early because of our La Crosse Chamber Chorale concert in Caledonia, MN, which was about an hour and a half from Tomah. Lady Hulda (she of the random acts of generosity) kidnapped two popovers from the Feast for me, even though (knowing I would not be able to stay) I hadn't purchased feast. So I got dinner, at least. (The popovers were YUMMY.)

The concert went only okay. I continue to be amazed at how many different configurations the conductor can put us in. I have given up trying to memorize exactly where I'm supposed to be standing for each piece--I just try to remember approximately where on the risers I was when we last rehearsed such-and-such a piece, and then let other people pull me into the right spot if I'm on the wrong side of someone. It usually works.

Anyway, the audience wasn't huge (maybe 110 people) but they obviously wanted to be there, which is always gratifying. An audience full of bored family members and middle-aged husbands dragged there by their music-enthusiast wives, falling asleep during less rousing pieces, is just not very inspirational to sing to. In Caledonia, even the kids who were there remained attentive. We did several pieces up in the balcony, behind the balcony seating area; when the two people who had been sitting in the balcony seating (a father and 10-year-old son) realized we were going to be singing up there, they sat down on the floor against the wall on the lower part of the balcony, so they could see us. I thought that was neat: they obviously wanted to see as much of the performance as they could, and they really had ringside seats up there. Unlike the rest of the audience, which could not see us at all during those pieces. I disagreed with the idea of doing non-organ pieces in the balcony, but that's how it worked out best logistically, I guess.

Now: on to today's concert, for which call is 2:15.

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