Friday, March 28, 2003

Sweet Nothings
Or, Douce Dame Jolie and her Close Brush with a Possible New Hobby

(I'm going to try putting titles on all my 'blog entries, just as an exercise, to get better at titling things. Thank you and please read on.)

I'd like to take a moment to recommend the cotton candy flavored Life Savers that come in the pastel Easter-themed assortment currently available in the Easter aisle at your local grocery or drugstore. We got a whole mess of them for an event at work, then had a lot left over as snacks for the department. Before I knew it all the cotton candy ones were gone--like they sprouted little legs and fled in the night when no one was looking. The flavor is like regular pink cotton candy, with a little extra, almost flowery note to it. The banana ones are pretty good too, but not as strikingly flavorful (and not as exotic to me, since my dad used to carry around rolls of Tropical Fruits Life Savers in his pocket when I was a kid--you know, the assortment that includes banana, mango and pina colada).

About 13 years ago there was a crafts vendor at Celebrate, the spring festival at LU, that was selling delicious crystal-clear candies and lollipops she made at home to sell. The blue ones were cotton-candy flavored and I quickly got addicted to them, but that merchant never returned to campus. The pink cotton candy Life Savers taste almost exactly like them. 'Nuff said.

All this talk of candy is starting to make me want to learn to make hard candy. (Yeah right, I say to myself. That whole sugar plate episode didn't teach you anything. You spent a bunch of money on gum tragacanth and then the person who was going to give you tips on making the stuff was farkin' banished from the SCA. Did you ever touch those expensive supplies after that? Nooo. So what makes you think you're going to use the supplies you buy for hard candy?)

Well, all right, I respond to myself. Maybe it's not the best idea to invest in supplies for a new hobby when I already have plenty of time-consuming hobbies, many of them falling under the aegis of one particular all-consuming hobby. But you've gotta admit, spend enough time on sites like looking at the oils, the molds, the quins, the tie-dyed twist ties, and anyone's likely to seriously consider candy-making as a hobby, just to be able to buy some of that neat stuff. And OOOH they even have a starter kit for the low low price of $39.95! (Seriously. AND they have cotton candy flavored oil. I am so completely tempted.)

Let me just stand up and give myself a shake. And go get some candy from the kitchen. Obviously I'm suffering from some sort of low-blood-sugar candy craving. I'm sure if it won't shake out, I can chase it out with some Nerds (tm).

Ahhh. Much better...

Tomorrow, going to Dubuque for a Bardic Day with the members of Riverwatch, the Dubuque-area SCA group. I can't seem to find my directions to Robina's house, but I'm going to bring the directions from Madison that were sent out, and reconstruct them to work from La Crosse (I suspect it won't be that difficult, and anyway I'll give myself plenty of time). I hear a lot of my Northshield bardic friends will be there, plus folk from the last time when Owen & I drove down to do bardic stuff with them. So it should be a lot of fun. (And Robina says she won't make us sleep four to a bed this time. You'd think that would be fun too, but nuh-uh, that's not the kind of fun we were there to have...!)

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

I'm trying again to sell this painting on eBay (I tried last fall, but no luck). The story behind the painting is that a friend of mine from high school, with whom I haven't stayed in touch, came to my college graduation in 1993 and gave the painting to me as a gift. Her mom was (is?) an artist, and the friend knew how much I liked anything with multicolored flowers on it. So she had her mom put together this little gem for me. It's moved through six apartments with me, but I recently acquired two little needlepoints pieces done by my late grandmother, and they go better with the decor in that room. More importantly, I have lost touch with that particular friend and most of the friends who knew both of us. So I think it's time for me to let go. It can cheer up someone else's wall now.

A little bit of surrealism: my regular readers (hello to both of you!) know my SCA and family lives rarely intersect. My family isn't very interested in my SCA exploits, and my SCA activities/friendships by definition don't include my three far-off family members. On the way home from Pennsic last summer, though, I felt like calling my sister on my cell phone; she then (like the social butterfly she is) asked to talk to Owen. They talked for a few minutes; afterwards, Owen joked that he should really look her up next time he's in Atlanta on business.

I think we've referred to that idea once or twice since then; I didn't take it seriously. But I had a message on my machine from Owen last night when I got home from work, saying he was in Atlanta and didn't have much going on, and did I think it would work for him to call up my sister? Well hey, why shouldn't my SCA and family lives intersect every so often? I called up Ellen, made sure it was okay to give out her number, then called Owen back to give him the number. Laughing, I told him, "Have fun!" and waited for the reports.

They went out to dinner with a few of Ellen's friends soon afterwards. The verdict: Owen says Ellen is cool and has fun friends, and that now that he's heard her talk and use sayings that she attributes to Mom, he feels like he can triangulate Mom's voice from the two of us. Ellen says Owen is a sweetheart and talks with his hands just like I do. I felt like I had had an interesting social experience without even leaving my apartment. It was very surreal and very cool.

Okay day today; it got rather nice out (sunny and 60's) but when I left choir tonight, it was drizzling. I hope this isn't the prelude to some kind of sleet festival, or (gasp) more snow. Tonight, I'm extra tired because a fellow choir member woke me up early this morning, calling to let me know of a different location for tonight's rehearsal. I'm glad she called because I didn't have that location in any of my choir information, but I really, really hate early morning phone calls. To be fair, she did try to call last night, but I was online. Unfortunately, though both the caller and I made it to the right church this evening, no one had told either of us that we needed to be there early to practice the women's choir piece, so we both got there at 7 and missed a half-hour of rehearsal. This is the second time this has happened to me in the past few weeks.

Side rant: The information dissemination in this choir has completely fallen to pieces over the last few months. Misinformation, details someone forgot to mention, e-mails sent but never received, last-minute changes, and snap decisions seem to be rampant. We no longer have announcements at break time (sometimes we don't even have break time), and the interim conductor is not familiar enough with e-mail to send reminders to a large group of addresses at once--she tried, it didn't work. Basically, if you want to be aware of schedule changes or get a reminder of upcoming events, you have to be within earshot as she shouts out a reminder at the very end of the rehearsal, as people are leaving. (Woe be to the person who misses a rehearsal; things announced once are apparently not announced again.)

Today I found out there is a Saturday rehearsal April 5, that everyone claims was on some flyer or handout we received earlier in the year. The interim director brought it up as a question: "Isn't there supposed to be a Saturday rehearsal the day before the concert? Yes? Let's plan on that."

Thing is, that's the first I've heard of it. I looked through everything I have in my choir folder, notes in my 2002 and 2003 calendars, e-mails from the director, etc. and can't find any reference to a rehearsal on April 5. Everyone else says they have it on their schedules, so it must have been announced sometime in the past, but darned if I can find where or when. In the meantime I've made plans to be out of town. I told the interim conductor I'd have to miss it, and she didn't seem happy, but she'll have to deal with it.

To add to that, I asked her when concert call will be on Sunday the 6th, and she had no idea. She made a quick decision, but obviously hadn't thought about it until that moment. This for a concert that's in 12 days--good planning. I'll have to be sure to ask her again next week and see if the decision has changed. In fact, to be safe, I should probably put her in my cell phone's phonebook and call her on the way home Sunday morning in case she's made a last-minute change!

Monday, March 24, 2003

Musicians' Day was very nice. There were a lot of wonderfully capable and talented performers there. I took a percussion class from Master Robyyan, a class in period instruments, and a discussion class with Avery Austringer (soon to be Master Avery) about the Bardic Arts (I got a huge saffron-bloused hug from him when I announced my two hard-and-fast bardic circle rules: "No 'Moose Song' and no 'Scotsman'"!). Oh yes, and I finally took the "Gentle Introduction to the Recorder" class from Christian, which was very good and which gave me a chance to think more about the recorder. (Hey, once I could play "O Holy Night" pretty darn well. Pity "O Holy Night" isn't an SCA period piece.) Since most of the day was taken up with classes, I didn't actually get to hear any of the talented event attendees do anything but teach until 5.

At that point, Master Carlo (or as Chandler calls him, Massa Carlo) got most of the event attendees together for a polychoral sightreading session. I, and others, were confused by what "polychoral" might mean, but it said in the course program "bring your instruments and voices", so that was enough for me. I brought my voice, and to my delight we read through five of the coolest Italian and German multiple-choir pieces I've ever heard. Three of the pieces were two-part, and we arranged things so all the parts were covered by both instruments and voices on both sides. (Lucky me choosing Choir Two--a lot of multiple-choir pieces make use of echoing, and these were no exception. Often I could sing back what I'd just heard from Constance and her new Laurel, Thorhalla, on the other side of the room!) Then we did two three-choir pieces, and all the vocalists formed up at the end of the room to sing the Choir Three part. There were some good singers there--I especially love hearing Amelie and Thomas, they're just darned good.

After all that sightsinging my voice was tired, but when we came back from dinner for the dance revel, we discovered no one was very interested in either dancing or more instrumental stuff. No one had signed up to perform during the revel, even though there was a sign-up sheet at Troll. Chris and Flori set up on stage and prepared to do some instrumental things. Me being me, I butted in and begged to sing some stuff with them. The book of period vocal and choral stuff from Lady Katherine in Ealdormere really came in handy, as everything someone suggested singing was found either in that book, or one of my two English madrigal books. Various and sundry people would come up and sing with us, depending on whether they knew the piece, and everyone else sat around and consumed the yummy stuff from the dessert table. It was nice.

And it was over earlyish (~9:30), which was too bad, but so many people had to leave after dinner, and the overall tenor of the day had been so informal, I did not seriously think anyone would be any more formal in the evening. Taken as a whole, it was a nice break from the current dull roar of the Northshield. Not that I'd ever bad-mouth the Northshield! But the pace is slower, and the politicking a bit less evident, in other parts of the Midrealm right now. People down there seem content to plan, execute, and enjoy a regular ol' event, without agonizing over the Kingdom effort (I wouldn't call it a push anymore--it's more of a stampede) or debating fine points of Kingdom planning. It'll be a few years before things settle back into that pattern around here.

One more thing: there were merchants there. Just a few, but the nice sari people from Caer Anterth drove all the way down for it, and I spent $30 on a shot silk scarf in black and burgundy, with bright gold accents and fringe, for my middle eastern outfit. Oh, and $2 for a silver braided-wire bangle. I should really buy more of those as bardic tokens, next time I run into that vendor.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Just heard these guys in concert in Winona, in the quasi-Byzantine-cum-English-Ren Chapel of St. Mary of the Angels. They were amazing. As Kudrun said, they took everything your choir conductors have been urging you to try to do since you were in high school--add power and intensity to soft sounds, blend vowels, look at the audience and at each others, get you consonants coordinated with everyone else, etc.--and did it. All of it. Without a conductor.

Their sound is somewhat young (I was amazed at being faced by 10 accomplished professional musicians who were in the thick of college in 1995...when I was already out of grad school and agonizing over the beginnings of my career). But I can't hold it against them. Just the sheer range of the program we heard tonight would have been enough: Dawson spirituals to a Morley madrigal to weird Finnish overtone singing to the Kalevala in Latin (?!?) to "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" arranged for guitar, soloist, cellist, and eight incredibly serious humming men. By a member of the group.

Check out the website: they all compose/arrange (Kjos has an octavo series that has put out several of their pieces) and they all do this as a "real" job, too, handling many of the business aspects of the choir themselves (graphic design, singer recruiting, etc.). Who wouldn't be impressed? And they're cute too. Visit the website, where you can also buy their recordings, something I did a little of tonight. I got Introit, their first recording, which is worth it just for their understated, flowing, reverent performance of Palestrina's little "Adoramus Te, Christe" (the link is to my MIDI from when we did the piece in the Northshield Choir; don't be disappointed). On hearing their rendition, I burst out with, "Yes, that's it, that's how that piece is supposed to sound". (Thank goodness this was once I got home, while listening to the CD, not during the performance!)

Speaking of choral music, when I got home tonight, a letter was in my mailbox from the LU Reunion Committee, with details on the big choir reunion which will take place during Reunion Weekend this year (June 20-22, 2003--I'm going to miss That's Amare again). They have rehearsals and performances all scheduled in, with dinners and receptions and assorted mix 'n' mingle activities ongoing through the weekend.

Thing is, this will be my 10th reunion, which is kind of more important to me than meeting a broad range of people I've never seen before who enjoyed singing with the LU Concert Choir in, say, 1964, 1972 and 1986. So once I get the schedule for the Class of 1993 reunion, I'm going to have to sit down and decide what to participate in and what's going to conflict with something else I'd rather do. I mean, I sure love singing, but I get to do that every Tuesday night, plus SCA stuff a few times a month, and I'll be pootered if I'm going to give up spending time with friends I never get to see, just so I can hammer away at the "Hallelujah Chorus" with a bunch of strangers.

Tomorrow: off to Madison, to meet up with Alissende and Josceline (and possibly Chandler, plans are still in flux) and proceed to Musicians' Day in Charleston, IL. I have no idea where that is, but luckily I'm not going to be driving. This is my chance to spend some time in the 'serious music' branch of the SCA for a little while. When I started in the SCA, my fantasy was that there was all kinds of incredible work in early music being done as part of the SCA, and these amazing performances, all in garb, that would transport me back in time. I mean, I already knew that there was something missing, singing madrigals in a black polyester crepe dress. I was hoping the SCA would provide the complete picture.

And it does encourage that comprehensive approach, but you have to follow A&S guidelines, live in an area where you can join an ensemble and learn from others, and accept that this is not a "by audition only" organization (at least not in our Principality). I have since given up these fantasies, but that's not to say I've given up on the music, or the possibility of magic moments that do come from performing with friends, in garb, at events. I love the blurring between choral and bardic music that's been happening in the last couple of years, I adore the Northshield Choir, and I do think there are those who do SCA music at a very high level of quality. Professional, maybe not, but there are moments...

Anyway, I was told there would be choral music at this event...both classes and pickup singing. I'm going to hold...well...someone to that! (Probably the nearest Pippin.)

Monday, March 17, 2003

I would just like to say how much I love my mom. When she's needed, she goes above and beyond the call of duty. I love her a lot. And I have sent her a present that I think she'll like. (Shhhh, don't tell her. ;) )

That reminds me, my family's birthday streak is coming up relatively soon. My mom's first on May 26, then my sister on June 23, and my dad on July 6 (not to mention, my parents' anniversary July 23). I am completely out of the streak, smack in the middle of the winter gift season, on December 19. I need to start thinking of gift ideas. My sister called this past Saturday to say she was on a particularly neato bridge in Savannah, and to tell me that she went out and bought herself the gift she had asked me to get for her. Apparently they were on sale. Well, okay then. Back to the drawing board on that one.

Nothing much going on tonight. The maintenance person is coming tomorrow to re-attach the hood above my stove, which was poorly installed and came loose of half of its moorings suddenly one night. It now hangs by the two screws on one side, drooping several inches on the other side where one screw was forgotten and one was drilled improperly. The effect this has on tonight is that I had to spend a little while tidying up the area around the stove, which is normally teeming with stuff. I also cleaned off a chair and a stepstool in case the maintenance person needed to reposition himself. The missing screws are at sort of an odd angle (so odd, I couldn't really get in there to pound anything in myself; in any case, its current position puts the pre-drilled screw holes nowhere near the wooden pieces they're supposed to lead into).

Hey, look at that: tonight is so boring that I'm wasting time on my webpage describing in detail a maintenance problem that I don't even have to fix. (That's what my $645 farkin' dollars of rent a month are for.) I'm going to go recline in bed and read Aristotle or something.

Friday, March 14, 2003

Tonight I learned how easy it is to make harem pants.

Let me explain. I am not planning on moving to Iraq or anything like that. I've said before that I really don't have any interest in Middle Eastern anything, whether it's current geopolitics (which depress me a lot) or SCA personae. I admire people who can do Middle Eastern well, just like I admire anyone who can do, say, Japanese or Italian or Upper Rhenish well. But as a culture it has always seemed distasteful to me. If I recall correctly, I once disparaged Middle Eastern culture in SCA period as being all about "sipping mint tea and oppressing women".

But some of the first SCA garb I ever saw was Lady Gisele's revealing and rather pretty Middle Eastern garb at my very first SCA moot, in September 1997 in Falcon's Keep. She gave us a lesson in Middle Eastern dancing at that gathering, walking in a tiny circle in the middle of Dalbach and Renate's little kitchen, doing hip isolations. I decided my body didn't work that way, but I also decided there was something nice about this Middle Eastern thing--not something I needed to follow up on right away, but something I'd want to keep my eye on.

My opinions haven't really changed, but I've done a little reading since then. I've come to see that there was and is a lot of variety in culture and attitudes throughout the Muslim world, and there are really beautiful aspects of Middle Eastern culture. One of them is exactly what first caught my eye: the garb.

None of this would be remotely relevant if this year's La Crosse Chamber Chorale May Feaste theme weren't "Where in the World". For our annual dinner/concert fundraiser, each singer is supposed to come up with some sort of ethnic costume to wear. My attitude since joining the SCA is that I'm not really interested in investing time or money in a costume unless I can also use it in the SCA. What type of ethnic costume could I put together that would not scream "historical costume" at May Feaste, but would not be too modern for the SCA? Why, Middle Eastern, of course.

I've stayed up late several nights in the past few weeks shopping, pondering, and otherwise planning this outfit. Getting to know the tribal costume/belly dancing/cabaret/middle eastern import scene has been eye-opening. You can buy almost anything in almost any fabric, almost any level of authenticity, jingly or non-jingly, made in Egypt or Afghanistan or Turkey or Pakistan or India or wherever (or by any number of gypsy tribes such as the Kuchi), revealing or not, from a whole array of online stores out there. No matter how long I look, I keep finding new ones, so I had to draw the line and make some purchases before I got lost in all of it!

So far, I have bought ghawazee coat patterns from B.D. Patterns and Atira's (I didn't get the Madame X one because it laces up princess seams in the front, which just looks haphazard and poorly designed to me). I dug out the lace-up black leather sandals I bought at the Ren Fest last time I was there, and never wore because I don't like wearing sandals outdoors. I opened my garb/fabric closet and found 4 yards of dark red douppioni silk that's perfect for harem pants, and 2 yards of gorgeous teal/red/blue/tan light tapestry that I bought 4 years ago at S.R. Harris, thinking "Wow, how arabesque...maybe someday I'll use this for a ghawazee coat..."

Last night I ordered red and blue scarves to make a headdress, from Distant Caravans, and a white undercoat to go under the ghawazee coat, from Castle Garden Creations (figured I'd patronize two SCA-based merchants). Today in the mail I received two necklace/earring sets I ordered from Vshopindia--one bright blue and silver, one dark red and gold, figuring I'd keep the one that went best with my garb and donate the other set to the May Feaste silent auction. They are just gorgeous--and the red set matches the silk perfectly.

And tonight, I took out the harem pants piece from the B.D. Patterns pattern (it was included) and decided to attack it. Turns out there is nothing simpler in the world of SCA garb, unless you wear Roman and decide to just swathe yourself in linen yardage. Basically there's one big symmetrical pattern piece; you double your fabric and cut two, then sew simple curves for the crotch and long straight lines for the rest of it. You finish it by folding over for elastic casings for the waist and hems, and it's done.

Even starting with ironing both the pattern piece and the fabric, doing all French seams, finishing the edges prior to making the casings, and taking a 1/2 hour phone call in the middle, I got the whole thing done from start to finish in 2 hours and 45 minutes. My only pieces of garb which have taken less time have been skirts. I can't even do a bodice in that amount of time, and I'm getting pretty quick at bodices. And the pants are perfect--crisp yet flowing, comfortable, poofy without dragging on the ground, and just long enough that the surplus fabric hides the elastic hems. I love them.

Either tomorrow or sometime this week, I'm planning on doing a mock-up of the ghawazee coat. Encouraged by great reviews, I'm going to use the Atira's pattern for that. No way I'm cutting into what is perhaps the most beautiful fabric I've ever owned until I'm totally sure of fit.

But for now, I'm just so excited about the harem pants. I should remember that I always feel better when I've produced something. Yay, me!

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

I treated myself tonight: noting that we're about a month from Passover, I went for my last big fling at Woodman's supermarket before it's time to cease pasta/bread/etc. and stock up on Passoverables. (What are those, you ask? There are a few specialty foods available, but mostly Passoverables are anything, anything that doesn't have wheat flour, grain thickeners, yeast extract, rice, pasta, cornstarch, etc. in it. Mostly steak and potatoes and veggies. And lots of matzo. Oh yeah, I like lentils too, but people disagree over whether they're okay for Passover or not. Is it a grain or a bean? There is supposedly a rule-of-thumb that if you dump it on the table and it forms a pile, it's out-of-bounds for Passover. I'd like to see anyone make lentils pile up. Maybe on the equinox...?)

On the drive (Woodman's is north of town, about 20 minutes one-way for me), I listened to the old practice tape from the season I spent singing with a small folk group when I was in Bismarck. It's pretty eclectic: Tom Paxton's "I Don't Want a Bunny-Wunny", some Sweet Honey in the Rock (which I've never been crazy about, but it's all part of the mix), some Jewish stuff from Debbie Friedman and Bonia Shur that I was trying to get the group into, a MIDI of "For Unto Us a Child is Born" from which the group adapted a Swingle Singers-type vocalise, and the ultimate happy song, "Uncle John's Band" as done by the Indigo Girls.

The folk group, which was comprised of four women, was called Surrogate Sisters. It had been going on a long time before I got there, with various people moving in and out of it. I got into the group because I knew two of the members from choir, and one from work, and it was the one from work--one of the two friends from Maine that I knew in Bismarck--who first invited me. We rehearsed once a week at a church where one of the members was the musical director. I think I was the only one who didn't play an instrument, but they were so friendly and nice to me--let me sing whatever harmony part I wanted, let me bring in stuff I wanted us to learn, and let me browse through all their music. They were patient with me and if I didn't feel ready to sing something, I could sit it out.

We really only performed once during the time that I was in the group--at the library's annual Talking Books volunteer luncheon. I remember doing "Bunny Wunny", a version of the "Honest Husbandman" song that I haven't heard since, Debbie Friedman's folksy "Oseh Shalom" with the group leader doing a fair Chasidic um-CHUNK um-CHUNK beat on her guitar, and a few other things. (The group leader was this fun, funky woman with wispy red hair, who was just entirely too liberal and interesting for North Dakota even though she'd lived there all her life; I remember that while I was there, she had gotten a state arts grant to study Celtic harp with a famous teacher. Looking back, if there was anyone who would appreciate the SCA in Bismarck, it would probably have been her.)

In June (this was 1997) after I'd left my job, I ran into the group leader at the Green Earth Cafe (the link is to an article about the restaurant's closure at the end of 2002! I suppose it was only a matter of time. RIP, Green Earth.). I was so pleased to be leaving North Dakota, I remember walking right up to her as she was eating lunch, and saying, "Guess what? I'm moving back to Wisconsin." I remember she had sort of a blank look on her face, and said, "What will I tell the group?". I told her to say goodbye for me. In retrospect I probably wasn't being very respectful. I should have let all of them know I was leaving, thanked them for their friendship and music, and wished the Surrogate Sisters luck. But instead I gloated to her about how excited I was to be leaving. That wasn't very nice of me. I did send them a card once I was settled in Marshfield, but it was probably too little, too late. They must think of me (if they remember me at all) as one of those out-of-state people who thinks she can blow into town, do whatever she wants, and leave when she gets bored. Bismarckians hate very few things as much as they hate people like that, or people they think are like that. (Found that out the hard way.)

I feel sort of bad about how I left the folk group. But I still love listening to the practice tape. It brings back a few good memories of the hopeful feelings I had about joining Surrogate Sisters.

Anyway, I did mondo grocery shopping, and didn't get back until 11, so that's why I'm on so late. Off to bed now.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

Long weekend, not in a bad (or literal) way, just that it felt long. Yesterday I woke up early to head to work for a project I helped out with. When that was done, I went to lunch, then went shopping. I spent entirely too much at Ben Franklin, then ran some errands that needed running. Then I went home and returned some phone calls. One was from Giles and Bronislava, inviting me to a movie night last night.

I was kinda too tired to go (waking up early six days in a row will do that to me), but I went anyway, and was glad I did. We had fun. Valgarth and Ariella, Sarra, Gavin, Toki and Signy were there. We had Topper's pizza and watched some Wallace and Gromit videos that Valgarth had brought. Then we put in one that I brought, Dangerous Beauty. Everyone laughed at the sensuous-half-dressed-woman-of-no-particular-historical-period picture on the video case, and the joke as people were arriving was that Eliane had brought some nice soft-core porn. ("No, I didn't", I would scoff. "I don't watch soft-core porn.") But actually, I do recommend the movie, which is the well-costumed if somewhat melodramatic story of a woman who, when the man she loves refuses to marry her, becomes a high-price courtesan in order to take advantage of the freedoms courtesans could have in 1580's Venice.

After that, we watched a copy that Bronislava had somehow found of The Court Jester, from 1956, with Danny Kaye and Angela Lansbury. We did some obligatory picking apart of the costumes ("I do believe his chain mail is painted on", Ariella commented during one of the scenes), but if we'd expected to be able to make fun of this movie, we didn't count on the movie doing it for us. It turns out that it's tough to make fun of a parody.

Kaye's character is the wacky, softhearted, credulous pacifist who only helps out in the Black Fox's outlaw band, he doesn't actually fight for him. When the True Heir to the Throne is born (they can tell because the baby has a red flower birthmark on his butt! A precursor of Willow.), he volunteers to take the baby to the castle where operatives will overthrow the usurping current King. There, in the guise of the world-famous jester Giacomo, he's hypnotized by a crone, taken for a dashing hero by the Princess, knighted in the silliest knighting ceremony ever seen, participates in several laughable song-and-dance numbers, and generally stumbles charmingly into a happy ending.

The best scene is when he and the female Captain of the Black Fox's fighters, who he's just seen in female clothes (an off-the-shoulder brown "peasant" gown, corseted to the nines, laced up the front, with what seems like a strapless chemise peeking just far enough out the top of the gown to keep any cleavage from showing) for the first time, have to stay in a woodman's hut overnight. With moody lighting, lots of hay, and a cute, silent baby cooing in its basket, the woodman's hut is the ideal place for romance. They lie down together to sleep--somewhat nervously of course; Danny Kaye could do nervous at least as well as he could do wacky--and have this cautious conversation where she allows as how not all good men are fighters, and he wonders if she could ever see herself with someone who didn't fight, and she says she believes she could...and snuggles in a little....And then the traveling Jester stumbles in, and she forgets romance and has the brilliant idea of knocking him out and putting Danny in his clothes so he can gain entrance to the castle. It's the only romantic scene they get, and it's cute.

Had another dream about Pennsic last night. (I've been having those a lot lately.) I convinced Sarra to come with me and camp, in our tent, even though I knew she had misgivings. (Sarra, thanks for your faith in me. ;) ) But when we got there, and started unpacking stuff, I discovered I'd left my clothes back at home--both types, mundane and garb, which is ridiculous because I keep them separate at Pennsic: mundanes in the car in a duffle, with one outfit left in my large Rubbermaid, and garb in the large Rubbermaid, with hangables in my cloak. But no, I'd left everything behind and had nothing but the shirt and shorts I was wearing.

So I left Sarra putting up the tent (which she does so much better than me anyway), and started walking towards the mundane mall on the Pennsic grounds, which doesn't exist but which I remembered from a previous dream. The intent was to buy some underwear and socks and other stuff that I'd need whether I was in mundanes or garb. When I got there, though, it was closed--it wasn't opening until War Week, and we had gotten there early. I went back to where we were camping, which I think was on the Serengeti itself, next to AEthelmearc. Sarra had gotten the tent up, but then realized that she didn't recognize anyone who was camping around us, so she was a little flustered and wondering if we had the wrong campsite.

Luckily, at that point a friend called, waking me up, so I didn't have to see how that one ended. I am getting a bit sick of all these Pennsic dreams. This is maybe the fourth I've had in the last month or so. It's not that they're nightmares, they're just all so drab and pessimistic. All of them involve my getting into some sort of logistical problem: I arrive there and there is no more room in N19 so I have to camp with strangers, or I have a friend who has an RV on the grounds and wants me to stay there with her, but when we get there, it's been stripped of all its appliances and furniture and the roof leaks into puddles on the floor. Then there was the one where I drove there all alone, only to realize there was absolutely no one I knew there: no friends, no Northshield, no acquaintances from previous Wars. Just total strangers asking me cheerfully, "So where's your group camped?" That one was charming.

At some point in each dream, I look around me and think, "I have that same feeling I had at the beginning of my last year at camp: I shouldn't have come, I'm in the wrong place." I'm not normally one to put much stock in dreams, but if this keeps up, I'm going to start questioning whether I should even go this year.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Way to make my week: Word has just come from Northshield's Prince Robert and Princess Isabella. We were all worried that the populace poll for Northshield becoming a Kingdom would fail due to lack of return. 66.3% was the goal. Well, total return was 74.3%, and 87.6% of those were in favor of Northshield becoming a Kingdom. In the words of my dear friend Fiskr, the Principality Seneschal, "I think we have a mandate."

Pending the approval of the Board of Directors, who may even give it at the upcoming meeting in Milwaukee at the end of April if there is time on the agenda, we are on our way!

I know it seems a little odd for a grown woman to get excited over the transition of a fake Principality into a fake Kingdom. But it is honestly something I care about, for several reasons:

1. I care about my friends, and my friends care about it, and some have been caring about it since before I was around to have an opinion.
2. This thing called "The Northshield", while totally symbolic, feels like a country to me, complete with geographical features, cultural idiosyncrasies, political parties, patriotism, obligations and rights, as well as its own pageantry and inspiring moments (which will, at least temporarily, increase when we become a Kingdom).
3. In practical terms, my own activities in this organization will be improved by our administrative region having more autonomy.

If there are those out there who are still shaking their heads, Aelfled of Duckford (mundanely known as Sandra Dodd) wrote a nice article explaining "What Makes Normally Sane Adults Love the SCA So Much?". My family doesn't totally get why I'm into this, and I don't totally know how to discuss the things I love with them without boring them to tears, but we seem to manage over the long run. (It helps that I have a dad who has always been willing to listen to me babble, politely, making little feedback noises in the right places, and even asking a clarifying question now and then. He deserves to go to heaven just for every long patient hour he's listened to me talk.)

I do feel lucky that I can at least bring up the SCA without having my family worry that I'm in a cult, that I'm mentally ill, or that I'm withdrawing from reality. I have friends whose families really view the SCA as a sign that their relative is going off the deep end. In those situations, it sometimes helps to bring up the Civil War and Buckskinners re-enactment groups, the educational value of the purely historical arts/sciences we learn (for those who actually value education, and don't view it as a threat in itself), and the fact that this is a volunteer organization where you can gain real-world skills through experience: publishing a newsletter, planning and managing events, public relations, safety training, first aid, research, running a small business, travel planning, costuming, teaching, and more.

There will always be those who don't get the SCA. I think that's okay. Let me enjoy my hobby, and I'm happy to leave everyone else to do things that make ME wonder why anyone would be interested in them: golf, football, orienteering, metal detector walking, painting metal figurines, holding eating contests, auto racing, deer hunting, collecting Precious Moments figurines, buying antiques, going to gun shows, skiing, tinkering with cars...

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

This week I've been listening to '80's music. Monday night: the world's longest bath (with a little bit of Demeter Happily Foaming Bath Gel, Dirt scent, in it) while I listened to one of the compilation tapes I buy cheap at Walgreen's every couple of years. Flock of Seagulls, Tears for Fears, Thompson Twins. Atmospheric types of things.

Right now: Mylene Farmer's "A Quoi Je Sers", which I found on one of those mp3 trading programs awhile back (downloading music off the Internet? Who, me? Never!). We studied the music video for that song (whose title translates to "What good am I") at the terrible French school where I took classes while in Paris in college. A more desperately energetic song about hopelessness was never written. True hopelessness was not a feature of '80's pop, as I remember it. What gloominess there was, was all belied by its setting. "I will never be happy again, I am worth nothing" set to a perky dance beat. There's something I like about that.

What now: "I'm Alive" by ELO, from what qualifies as my longest-running favorite movie, Xanadu.

What now: "Mr. Blue" by Yaz. When I was a counselor-in-training at camp, one of my roommates fancied herself a New Wave doll, and when we went to Madison on a campus visit (don't ask), she stopped at a music store and got The Cocteau Twins' The Pink Opaque and Yaz' You and Me Both. Which she then proceeded to play non-stop for the remainder of the summer. She even asked me to transcribe lyrics for "Mr. Blue" when it came time for the annual Color Wars air band/lip-synch contest, and she and a few of the other CIT's wanted to compete. Predictably, when I got home I bought both tapes, and they were my favorites for a couple of years.

Can I just say how wrong it is that Beber Camp now has a pool? For one thing, which beautiful grassy expanse had to be excavated to install it? The archery field, the soccer field, the flagraising area? For another, what about the character-building qualities of spending a summer finding creative ways to avoid swimming in a murky, mucky sandless lake with man-eating seaweed lurking just below body level, waiting to snag your foot and drag you under? I mean really, it made my camp experience what it was. (A disorganized and usually boring effort to avoid doing unpleasant things and getting bug bites, while listening to a lot of pop music on the radio, reading as much as possible, and being constantly reminded that I wasn't pretty enough to get paired up with any of the guys in our brother bunk.) (Okay, maybe the seaweed wasn't responsible for all that, but you must admit it was pretty emblematic.)

Ah, but I digress. (So what else is new?)

What now: Goanna's "Solid Rock", which apparently is about aboriginal rights in Australia. I saw this a lot on MTV early on (middle school) and always liked it. I still don't know exactly what it's about, but you can't beat that beat. So to speak.

I was debating the merits of listing blogs I frequent, somewhere on this page. Like, The Bleat, Subterfuge Reynardine, Perpetual Motion, and other daily-type things like Overdue and The Straight Dope.

Where to put them? There isn't a lot of room to the right, and nothing at all on the left. I suppose I could put them in a small font at the end of the buttons to the right, but even with the exorbitant length of most of my posts, that still hides them beneath the margin of the current post. "Below the fold", as it were. Would it be better marketing to put them at the top of the right-hand side? I don't know; we're only talking a half-dozen blogs--I'd only list the ones I do genuinely follow over time, and I'd remove any I had stopped following. I also think it would remind me to check them, if I had them all in one spot and didn't even have to pull down my favorites menu. Hmmm...I'll ponder this for awhile.

What now: "Somebody" by Depeche Mode, which I first heard in my parents' basement when two older and painstakingly cool high school girls from Milwaukee were lodged at our house during a youth group conclave in Madison. This was my first conclave and I was excited to have two of the obviously cool ones staying with me, but they didn't pay a whole lot of attention to me (I was only a freshman, after all). They arrived with a large stack of their own special mix tapes and spent all of our at-home time playing them on my/my sister's old silver plastic Sears stereo (which, by the way, I used up until about four years ago).

"Somebody" immediately struck me as the most romantic thing I had ever heard. Heartfelt, and simply-stated enough even for a 14-year-old to get on first listen. To wit: "She will listen to me/When I want to speak/About the world we live in/And life in general/Though my ideas may be wrong/They may even be perverted,/She'll hear me out/And won't easily be converted/To my way of thinking..."

What I think is sweet about '80's pop lyrics is that they had a point. They never stated things very well and the point itself was not usually very deep or controversial, but they said what they had to say, and they didn't usually fall back on sexual or violent imagery. You understood them, or you understood (as with Duran Duran's lyrics) that they were gibberish. I agree with Mr. Lileks that there is something charming and even valuable in cultural artifacts that shun ambiguity, that don't tread the middle road between clarity and utter nonsense. Not that you'd want to build a life philosophy off of them...but then again, I have never seen much of anything in life or love that contradicts the sentiments of "Somebody". Builds on them, yes; offers a different perspective, maybe. But nothing that proves them wrong.

Monday, March 03, 2003

I just did a long post, talking about nothing in particular, and then due to a strange series of problems with my computer, combined with my not paying attention at a specific moment, it got wiped. I don't really have the energy to rewrite the thing right now, though normally that's what I'd do. So, I'll just give a muffled scream of frustration and give up for now.

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