Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Progress is nice
Or, Please don't worry, things are better, send candy instead.

I freaked out at least one person with the previous entry. My apologies. I started feeling better not long after that. The thing with this illness is that where you would think it would be predictable, it will suddenly flare up for no reason at all, or disappear when you would think it would be worst. The best thing about it is that it isn't constant. The worst thing about it is that you never know when it might start being constant.

Things are better right now, and I'm making progress on several fronts: I finished the underdress construction for my Coronation outfit, and hung it up to settle for a couple of days before I start on buttons/buttonholes/hems. The linen from NYC has been a dream to work with. Why our large local fabric stores think we only want linen in the spring, and then we only want that ugly baggy bias-y loosely-woven stuff, is beyond me. The linen I got in March in the Garment District is more tightly woven, less bias-y, still just as soft if you wash it or crisp if you iron it, with great drape. And it sews up like cotton broadcloth. I adore it.

In celebration I am eating one of the candy bracelets I got in a bulk bag at UBake. They're mostly bardic tokens but I have some other, less silly ones for Bards & Cooks this weekend: small glass heart Evil Eye pendants that I found in Greenwich Village at a booth in the market that only sold glass Evil Eye merchandise. Plates, cups, beads, keychains, plaques, hangy-doos for your rearview mirror, etc., etc. It was almost more cobalt blue glass than I could handle in one small booth.

Other things I need to get done before Friday: poetic translations of at least one more poem (I got one done last night) for my Laurel Prize Tourney entry so Michael can help me polish them this weekend, and my class on Sephardic music. Yes, I'm teaching a class Saturday. What I learned from stuffing 900 years of European Jewish history into one hour for the Medieval Religions Symposium a couple of weeks ago, is that it cannot be done. The frantic stuffing of more and more historical details into my speaker's outline may be educational for me, but my students will never hear the whole thing--there will be three pages left unread by the time the hour is done.

So I'm taking a different approach for this one. I'll put together a small timeline of the Jews in Spain pre-1492 as a handout, put info on the Inquisition and the subsequent Sephardic diaspora into my outline, and then use the remaining...uh...hopefully 40 minutes to listen to various pieces. I'll also provide an elementary illustration of the modes so people can start thinking of where the accidentals are in the scale of the piece they're listening to. (Oh dear, I guess I'll have to bring the Period Instrument (tm), aka the Yamaha PSS-270 I bought with Confirmation gift checks when I was 16.) If Thursday afternoon sees me wrapping up the above, I may pick out something bouncy and provide sheet music and teach people to sing it.

I'm toying with the idea of presenting as many different versions of "Porque Llorax" (the original tune for "Three Words" as I can; I would finish with the odd fractured choral arrangement that I learned the tune from, on my Efroni Choir recording. This idea, however, is dependent on my being able to tape a few things off of the CDs at the music library tomorrow. I don't know if their audio setup allows for that. We'll see. I'd like to use that tune if I can because people obviously know it, and it's a way to honor the original song, rather than just stealing its tune for my own purposes.

There is a new Starbucks on University Avenue. It is on the same side of the road as, and .55 miles west of, the old one (which is only four years old). What gives? Are they planning this sort of Starbucks density all over town? Not only will they put the hometown brands out of business, they'll overrun the city. You won't be able to walk a block without stumbling on one. They'll have to start selling stamps, renting videos, and carrying dairy products, since they'll displace all the existing businesses filling those functions. Am I the only one who foresees such a dire future, a future where we can buy a Venti Decaf Frappuccino with Whip and Syrup on every corner, but have to shop for groceries on the Internet?

Woo. Maybe I've been listening a bit much to "The Mic" 92.1, which is the new progressive talk radio station in Madison. All I can say is, it's about time. I adore Wisconsin Public Radio as much as I always have, but contrary to popular opinion, they do not have much of a liberal bias. Occasionally you just want to hear people talk in a way you agree with, allowing themselves to be funny, cutting, angry, and not very neutral. That seems to be the niche 92.1 is filling. It's got Al Franken (who is visiting Madison next week--I'll have to see if Sarra wants to go, since that's when she'll be in town), Randi Rhodes (who is occasionally a little over the edge, but funny), and Stuart Levitan, local earnest fellow. The ads are a little lackluster (rather like late-night TV: people offering to hypnotize you, "all-natural" energy pills, Ovaltine, etc.) but I'm sure that'll improve over time.

All I know is, Al Franken seems to have awakened my mom's long-silent left-wing righteous anger. It's nice to see, and so I'm sipping from the same cup a bit these days. But when I get tired of all the indignation, never fear, I still go back to WPR.

Next step: drawing, planning and cutting out the cotehardie. I decided against some type of fancy dagged sleeve; the documentation that came with the pattern (yes, this is one of the ones with actual documentation) didn't show much in the way of dags. Right now I'm leaning towards something like a combination of the particoloring of my green/blue cote, and the short sleeve with attached tippet of my purple/red cote. Maybe with some embroidery around the neckline, I don't know. We'll see.

In related news, Thai Silks has improved their website a thousandfold, so when you get their sale flyers, you don't have to just rely on their expensive swatch service or your imagination to figure out what you'd be getting, or to order it. I'm proud of them.

And now, I smell a cigar. Is it the guy downstairs smoking it (I have my deck door open) or one of the slacker workers ripping up the carpet next door? I will take my left-wing indignation in hand and go find out.

Thursday, September 23, 2004
When you think for a long time that an illness is under control, and then for no good reason it suddenly isn't anymore, what are you supposed to do? Nothing's changed, life's the same, I didn't even switch dish detergents or anything. The old solution apparently just no longer works, and it was the only thing that did. This is not funny (as if it ever was). Dammit. Dammit, dammit, dammit.

I'll probably be okay in about ten days, but it's going to be a rough week or so.

If you should happen to see me and I'm acting weird, quieter or louder than usual, hanging back in social situations, complaining more than usual, just please know, there's a reason. It's not you, it's not how I feel about you. There's nothing I can do about it now but try to live life normally, but there are going to be times when that's not possible. I'll be okay, really, I just need to get through it.

Friday, September 17, 2004
Sorry for the silence
Or, The M.R.S. looms

The M.R.S. is the Medieval Religions Symposium, the brainchild of our local Chatelain here in Jararvellir. (Not, I might note, as part of his duties as Chatelain, though I don't at all disapprove and even think it might bring in a few people who think the SCA is not scholarly enough for them.) He did some checking and discovered that there had never been an SCA event exploring medieval religion. Corpora states that SCA events are not to include religious observances, and tradition dictates that we don't even usually theme events after religious holidays (the whole Bardic Madness saint's day thingy notwithstanding). Being the kind of guy who espouses tolerance and personally doesn't have a religion in particular, he decided to organize one in the spirit of learning about an aspect of life that was tremendously important and influential in SCA period.

The event is tomorrow at the same site where we did Bardic Madness XIII, in Dodgeville south of Madison. I'm part of a triumvirate of people teaching classes related to Judaism: Mikey will be teaching a class on the Khazars, Alienor will do one on the Crypto-Jews of Spain starting in about 1390, and I'm handling...well...everything else.

Okay, not everything else. I hedged in the topic by limiting myself to the Jews of Europe from about 700-1600. Anyone who knows anything about Jewish history knows that that's no limit at all, especially when faced with cramming all this into a one-hour class.

Oy. There are people who have made their whole lives' research out of the Jews of a small town in France or England in a short range of years. I am in slightly over my head, covering all of Europe over 900 years in one hour.

My plan is to have lots of basic informational stuff on handouts that I won't have to read aloud to people (check), bring books and visual aids so no one gets sleepy (check, although I'm waiting with bated breath for my Historical Atlas of the Jews to be delivered by UPS today; I bought it Sunday at the Met and had it mailed), provide an extensive bibliography (check), and take a highlighter to my outline sometime Saturday before the class, marking off sections that are of more importance to get across in a limited amount of time. It doesn't help that my speakers' outline is 8 pages long. We'll see how this goes.

By the time this is over, no one who attends my class had better doubt that there is plenty of extant information about the lives, literature, and religious activities of the Jews in Europe in SCA period!

Why was I at the Met on Sunday? Oh, you're an observant reader. Mom's roommate for one of her New York URJ meetings took sick and couldn't go. So I got a relatively cheap plane ticket and went out to spend the weekend with her so she wouldn't be all alone in a luxury hotel room. (I'm such a nice daughter.)

We went to Chelsea Market on Saturday, when Mom didn't have meetings, then walked to Greenwich Village, where I'd never been, just to see what we could see. All the way down Bleecker St. (I think) was a festive street market with jewelry, crafts, ethnic food, etc. which we loved. Mom kept saying how pleasant it was to just walk and be surrounded by all these shopping possibilities. I completely agreed.

Saturday night for dinner we joined Mom's co-president from Chicago and the regional president from the Pacific Northwest Council, who is an ex-symphony-conductor from Boise, Idaho and was fun to talk to. (I was telling him about the large choral works I've sung and he started warbling excerpts from Beethoven's "Missa Solemnis" right there on the street.) We went to Cafe Des Artistes, which is really more like a cafe of one artiste, Howard Chandler Christy, who painted extravagant foliage and lots and LOTS of cheerful naked women on the walls of the cafe. The food was excellent and not too terribly priced.

(I discovered during this trip that many nicer NYC restaurants now have a prix fixe menu, where you pay a certain amount--say, $25 or $40 or whatever--to get a full meal with appetizer, main dish, and dessert, selected from several categories of the menu. I'm familiar with this concept from France, where it got me several of my best meals. I'm not familiar with the way they pronounce it in NYC: "prefix". I even saw it erroneously spelled that way in several ads. In French it's pronounced "pree feeks" and means "fixed price".)

Sunday I went to the Met, where I realized I had never seen its copious collections of SCA-period artifacts, and dove right in. They have an incredible collection of Byzantine and other enamels, enough to make me want to restart the Jararvellir enameling guild, if only I had money and space for a kiln. Jewelry, tapestries, and glassware are also well-represented. The painting collection wasn't impressive, though (the Elvehjem in Madison has about as much from period, and it's of more interest for costuming).

Monday I went shopping in the Garment District, aka the Fabric District. I had orders from Eithni for several things she was looking for, so I got to go shopping with someone else's money, which is always fun. For myself, I got 6 yards of delicate matte brocade in gold and red, with red gillyflowers (I kid you not), in what the store guy called silk, but which is probably cotton or a cotton/silk blend. It came in the mail yesterday and the drooling has commenced. I have no idea what to do with it, though. Iohanna says she has a wonderful full-skirted sideless surcoat pattern, but I'm still visualizing some sort of rich-looking tunic with red raw silk trim. We'll see. I'm in no hurry to use it.

Sarra is visiting today (she's in Madison for the M.R.S. and is staying with me) and so we're down at the art library on campus, where she's found a (non-circulating) copy of a book on English medieval embroidery that she's been searching for. She's making a ton of photocopies so I'm spending this time working on this entry, which I started this morning at home and saved as a draft. Sarra also reminded me that I haven't written about Autumn Rose at all, for which I apologize. Here's my Autumn Rose rundown:

  1. Bronislava is an extremely capable autocrat, who also knows how to thank people--her thank-you message on the Northshield Hall even mentioned the gummi sushi I gave her. Apparently my official title at Autumn Rose is "giver of weird food to the autocrat". Now here's a job I can get fully into...!
  2. Feast was so good that Sarra was spontaneously apprenticed by Viscountess Mistress Aramanthra the Vicious, who has had three delicious Sarra feasts at Autumn Rose. Can't question this decision--it's a fabulous thing. My widdle Sawwa is awww gwown up...;) More to the point, feast was incredibly delicious. The lamb was meltingly good, the salad luxurious, the figpecker patina hearty and yummy. I ate a whole mushroom and rather liked it, even though I am not a big portobello mushroom fan. I even ate one of the goat cheese balls. It was so fluffy it evaporated off your tongue after every bite. And I hate goat cheese.
  3. Weather was okay; it got up to maybe 85. Sweaty for people fighting and carrying heavy stuff, but not bad for the average Lady doing mostly sit-down stuff.
  4. A&S went well. Edwin's functional armor cart garnered a ton of praise. Kudrun has done yet more amazing displays for A&S; she brought back the Garb Quiz and also had a 15-panel display on Medieval Science. Wow. A lot of people brought nice things, too; Giovanna brought in two bargello purses, Alexandra brought her cardweaving loom and a bunch of woven pieces, and there was even a bottle of wine from Valgarth (though of course we couldn't crack it open and try it). Lots of good things to look at and touch.
  5. The raffleminister didn't really know what she was doing, so I ended up helping out a lot with that, which I don't mind, but next year, it would be good if someone volunteered to do the raffle who actually knows how to do a raffle.
  6. Choir sounded good. Again someone had us singing half-in, half-out of the Bardic Barn. So I'm not sure if we actually sounded good to the audience.
  7. I have not too much to say about Bardic because I wasn't there for a lot of it, maybe two hours, and then I went off and talked with Edwin. I did have Kudrun and Heregyth serenade me with Gunnar's "Cheese Curds" song, which was neat.
  8. Edwin: not much I can really say about that. Really good conversations and some nice snuggling at the event. Lovely long talk in the parking lot of Rocky Rococo's in La Crosse after the event. Nothing since. I refuse to let this depress me. However, if he should read this and feel guilty for not writing back to my e-mail, I have no problem with that. (Must remember: I am unattractive when I pout, I am unattractive when I pout, I am unattractive when I pout...)
  9. Valgarth and Ariella are dynamos, or as Sarra calls them, vacuum cleaners with legs. I don't know what Rokeclif would do without them. They are so cool.

All right...we're leaving the library, so I'm finishing this entry up.

Thursday, September 02, 2004
Autumn Rose approacheth anon
Or, You can go home again...if you agree to be on staff

I'm running the Arts/Sciences display at Autumn Rose this year. Why? It just worked out that way. Sarra is the MoA&S, but she's feastocratting again. They asked me after they already knew I was moving, too. I'm happy to do it--I love my l'il former Shire--but hope this doesn't become a habit. I mean, I don't run stuff at Poor Man's Pennsic anymore.

I'm told I'll have help in watching the A&S schtuff, so I'm not too worried. It's rather a cushy job (lots of sitting down and enthusing over embroidery and illuminated scrolls) and it gets me the right to sleep in the A&S hall, which isn't heated but has light, electricity and cozy stall-like spots to put my stuff in.

I really am looking forward to Autumn Rose, for a variety of reasons. There's always great food (feast should be primo this year!), wonderful people to hang out with, and lots of music and singing. A whole passel of my friends are coming from far and near, though some will day-trip and hence not be available for the Bardic circle (hmph). And 3/4 of Northshield's Royalty is coming.

Oh yeah, and a particular guy is coming. But about that, nothing more will be said right now. Wouldn't want to jinx anything. (Says one of the least superstitious women you will ever meet.)

Last night I skipped SCA practice/social to see Cymbeline at American Players Theatre. (I see they finally revamped their website so it actually looks like it was made in the 21st century. Way to go! Now, work on compressing some of the massively detailed graphics.) I did take the requisite "let's read all of Shakespeare's plays in ten weeks" class in college, but Shakespeare's is one of the few oeuvres that doesn't fit very well into a ten-week trimester, and some of the last few plays we read are a little fuzzy in my mind.

I hadn't remembered Cymbeline as such a mix: part supernatural fantasy, part comedy of errors, part tragedy, part gender-bending romance, part political play, part everybody-gets-lost-in-the-woods, and all pastoro-pagan paean. (To coin a phrase that probably never needs to be used again.) It's got it all, and it packs it all into one play and even manages to make fun of the fact that the exposition gets a little cramped sometimes. ("Oh, I knew I forgot something!" exclaims the crotchety doctor while he's explaining all the plot devices during the last scene.)

APT pushes the humor in this play, oddly, considering that there's really only one consistently humorous character (the prancing stepson Cloten), but the audience came prepared to laugh, because they giggled even at things that probably weren't supposed to be funny. (That we occasionally had to wonder is a bad thing, I think.) In the supernatural scene, Jupiter was played by a steely-eyed Jim de Vita and his pecs, decked out in what looked like an old Conan the Barbarian outfit trimmed in gold lame braid. Yes, this was funny, but he didn't play it up for humor; the dialogue is pretty serious in this scene, as four ghosts discuss what is in store for a chained and beaten Posthumous and bestow a new fate on him.

But as the ghosts turned to leave, they looked up at Jupiter and said, in sort of a unison gee-whiz voice, "Thanks, Jupiter!" The crowd erupted into laughter. I've no doubt that this was the exact line Shakespeare wrote, but kids, this was before Howdy Doody, okay? "Thanks" was shorthand, not slang; it didn't imply disrespect. There must have been a way to direct that line that preserved it, yet made it seem subdued and deferential instead of cute.

The crowd definitely appreciated the humor, though, wherever they found it, and it's perhaps more accessible in Cymbeline than in other, more profound plays. Cloten was played up delightfully, along with his exchanges with his lady love, Imogen. In fact, I got to see Cloten up close: during a scene where he's been running around searching for Imogen in order to sully her honor, he ran down the aisle next to where I was sitting, paused for breath, sat on my shoulder, reached over me to the water bottle that was sitting on my purse in the seat next to me, and took a drink! Got to love improv moments.

The costumes were sort of early-Celtic-polyester-velour; well-draped, but more pre-Raphaelite-meets-Riverdance than anything else. And in a switch for most Shakespeare productions, it's the men's cleavage that got shown last night, not the women's. I now know exactly who among the male cast lifts weights. Not that I really needed to have this information...

Overall, Cymbeline was the best of the productions I've seen at APT this summer, and that includes the brilliant London Assurance too. With London they had the perfect vehicle for their company; with Cymbeline I think they had to work harder to take what must have seemed like too much, and make it into a coherent and beautiful show.

What a fabulous, relaxing week this has been. I've gotten so much done but haven't felt rushed. I only hope it continues this well.

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