Wednesday, October 27, 2004
More from the Honorable Lady of Leisure
Or, Joblessness = joy + sleep + worry

That's me, THL of Leisure. I'm still looking for work. I appear to have chosen the worst possible year in which to become unemployed: the UW hasn't posted a library job in seven weeks, for example, and it's just clerical stuff at the public libraries, if anything (most weeks, nothing). I hear from other librarians that this is a general trend. It worries me. I moved here hoping that my ideal job would open up, but since I left my last job, the market has gotten tougher by a couple of orders of magnitude--partly because I'm in Madison now, where the library job market is very competitive anyway, and partly because of economic factors. So things aren't looking hopeful right now. I am considering temporary options to have some money coming in, but those options probably won't cover all expenses, esp. if they don't offer health insurance. I'll keep this 'blog apprised if I find anything.

On the other hand, in the next few weeks I have enough stuff planned, that I jokingly wonder how I can ever work again: if employed, I'd have to miss things like car shopping with Chandler (whose old beater finally shuffled off this mortal coil, or at least its transmission), helping Aryanhwy make a cotehardie, going to lunch with Mom, and volunteering at Wisconsin Public Radio. Or I could fit them in, but sparingly, and with the trade-off that life would become that much more hectic. I like my relaxed life. It gives me time to think, write, and read.

Oh yeah, and play with the computer. I have just gotten into Launch, an online radio service which came with my upgrade of Yahoo IM. In particular, it's got a cool personalizable feature called "My Station" for which you supply them with ratings of various genres and artists, they play you stuff, and you rate things as you go to refine your choices. It's a bit like Amazon in that they save your ratings and preferences over time, molding what they present to you. This annoys some, but I rather like it. Unfortunately they had no listings for classical or early music at the beginning, and aren't giving me anything from those genres now, so compared to what I would normally listen to off of CDs, My Station is very pop-heavy, but with a strong leaning towards indie/alternative/folksy and 80's, so I'm reasonably pleased with it.

In other news, I saw Duran Duran on the Late Show last night. This was my favorite group all through my pop music phase (approx. ages 11-15). They have not aged well, I'm afraid. I couldn't even tell if all of them were the original members; Simon, John, and Nick were easy to identify, but the others kept their heads down and looked nondescript enough that they didn't ring bells for me. Simon, who was always my favorite, has a very strange spiky haircut that makes him look like the odd chenille swab with which you clean out your tape player. It's still his voice though, which is gratifying.

I think I might be nearly recovered from the whole Coronation and Crown thing. The Jararvellir-themed gown turned out nicely, except that I set one of the gore sets higher than the other, which is only partly camouflaged when I wear my apprentice belt. Also, having been frantic with preparations for the week before the event, I neglected to hem the gown until Friday night at the hotel, when I took it downstairs to the lobby, cut off the bottom four inches, and started hemming. Generous friends (thanks, Eithni, Iohanna, and Peregrine!) grabbed needles/thread and helped out so that it didn't take all night. This is a lovely thing. We spread it out on a round table (where I was gratified to see that it was more than a full circle) and were done by midnight, with bardic going on around us.

And it would have been a triumphant moment, if it weren't for the next morning when I put the thing on and discovered I had hemmed it about two inches too high. This bothered me all day, but it did turn out to be helpful, since the hotel and Civic Center were on a skywalk system where you had to carry your stuff through about 3/4 mile of other buildings and skywalks in order to get to site. I couldn't have carried my stuff as efficiently if I'd had to hold up my skirts with one hand.

Yeah, but it's still too short. So I'm considering how to lengthen it. I did keep the cut-off part. The hem is about an inch, rolled twice; I could pick out the hemming and do a tiny handkerchief hem, but that's hard and would only give me an extra inch or less, and would mean discarding my friends' work, which goes against the grain for me. Another option is to iron the hem very flat and attach the cut-off part behind it with much stitching (ideally by hand if it's going to look decent), then hem again, which seems like a huge amount of work, and might be too visible. I could justify this by making traced strips of the yellow linen and attaching those instead, since they would be an accent to the hem rather than something I was trying to camouflage. But I'm not sure if I have enough yellow for that, and I'm not sure if it would look any good. I don't know. Some thinking is warranted. I have a ton of good winter garb, so really I don't need to decide all winter if I don't want to, but I do want this to be Pennsic garb eventually, so I'll need to make a decision of some sort.

How was Coronation? Exhausting, but wonderful. SO many people (1500?) to talk to; I know I snubbed more than one because I was trying to finish a conversation with another, or attending to something I needed to get done. I hope they forgive me. Morning was mostly Court. My magic moment was before the actual Coronation, when King Felix of the Midrealm announced that he had promised to allow Northshield to have its own King and Queen, and this, he would do. It was the "this I will do" that got me. The last impediment was gone; this was really going to happen now. That's when I started getting weepy.

The ceremony itself was a little plodding, a little deliberate, but reflected the seriousness of the moment: how many years have we been waiting for this? Many have been working for much longer than I've been in the SCA. No one was going to muck it up with anything cutesy, rushed, or informal. I liked the fact that they incorporated the Stone of Schattentor, gifted to the Northshield from the Outlands several years ago at Quest for Camelot, in gratitude for the 600 scroll blanks we donated to them to help with their backlog. Someone got it to Rochester, MN from far southwestern SD, and someone paid for a forklift to get it onto the stage, where it was used as a focal point and (sometimes) sort of a workbench. Elashava got a shot, unfortunately taken from an up-my-nose angle, of me hugging the stone, which is what I do at the beginning and end of each Quest for Camelot. I'm not normally a metaphysical person, but it feels good to hug it. (Here's a little more sane-looking shot, and you can see the gown a bit, too.)

Others have discussed the ceremony, the horrible lighting in the hall, and the evening Court with its premier awards. I won't go into that; I realize I lose readers if I make these entries into novels every time. I'll just say that there was too much going on, but I managed to accomplish everything I wanted to, and the bardic that night was A-number-one amazing. Oh yes, and Dahrien and I finally got to do our "Apprentice's Stupid Trick" (which I call our "Stupid Apprentice's Trick" but Dahrien doesn't like the implication) for Ysolt, who has not been to any bardic stuff in something like two years. She laughed so hard she fell onto the floor. Highly gratifying.

The Laurel Prize Tourney was not really a tourney; it was so disorganized, several people had taken down their displays before the organizer thought to count tokens to try to determine a winner. Again, performing arts were marginalized; we had to perform at the end of a long busy hallway, over the noise of everyone else in it. The LPT room itself was always so crammed with people that several heralds had to announce every performance just to get people to go out to the hallway and pay attention to the performances. I had a respectable, small crowd for my poetry reading, but most of them I had collared moments before in the hallway/room and asked them to come listen.

I've never done a poetry reading before. I hadn't known I was doing this one until a week before the event. Probably, I should have done some practicing of the French beforehand; it tripped me up in spots, but my accent, while it's lost some fluidity, is not at all gone, and stood me in good stead. Edwin's comment was "Pretty French," which was mildly irritating because I think he's one of the better poets in the Northshield and I would have liked actual feedback on my translations. In the end I got no real constructive feedback, but some praise (esp. from Owen, who delightedly accused me of having "been up to stuff" while he wasn't paying attention), and seven tokens in my cup, each one representing someone who thought I was "best in show": one Pelican (a Mistress from Atlantia who stopped to talk for a few minutes and was really the only one actually interested in my project), three Laurels, and three personal tokens, including Toki's. (Thanks bud! I love the little glass bull.)

The gist of the project, for those who didn't see my inconspicuous spread of pieces of paper on a table, is that I took five French poems from the High Middle Ages to the Renaissance and did first literal, then poetic translations of them. My friend Michael Alewright, a poetry Laurel from Aethelmearc, was my sponsor and helped out with advance feedback and troubleshooting. I'm planning to put the whole thing on the web at some point, but give me some time.

Crown Tourney, this past weekend, was a completely different kind of event. Nothing whatsoever was scheduled besides courts, feast, and tourney. So I hung out at a table and did some embroidery (I have discovered DMC Medicis wool floss and lovely spongy hand-dyed wool fabric) with the various people who came over after I sat down, asking, "Is this the embroidery table?" Caoilfhionn is doing this incredibly detailed two-sided purse with textured, padded couched goldwork--it was a treat to watch her work. And as a bonus, she was there for me to point out when people asked about my "J'ai de decolletage, je conquerai" banner hanging from the neckline of my red Italian gown. She made the little banner for me on a whim, after a conversation we had at Bardic Madness a few years ago. I still think that's one of the nicest, most unexpected gifts anyone's ever given me.

My post-Coronation cold kept me from singing all last week, and the growing productive cough convinced me to keep from singing at the event too. It was slightly odd to just listen in a bardic circle. But it gave me a good vantage point to really listen to others sing, which I don't do enough of. It can teach you some interesting things about them and about their relationships to the music, esp. on the old standard songs that I barely listen to myself sing anymore. There is something to the traditional Jewish proscription against memorizing texts; if you have to read them off a page, you have to pay attention, foregoing the mindlessness of rote memory. Somewhat the same thing was going on here. Even the old standards seemed new and full of interest when I had to change my participation in the circle from full-throated singer to alert banger-on-the-side-of-the-chair-in-time-with-the-music.

I'll wrap this up--it's starting to get overwhelmingly long even for me. Tonight: laundry/embroidery/trying out the new CD player at the local laundromat. I have a new CD that doesn't work. It's not the player; I was able to play another CD I had with me. Brow furrowing commenced and hasn't ended. Tomorrow: lunch with Mom at Glass Nickel Pizza, and possibly meeting up with my grandsis Rebecca and my friend Sherry from the Rose Ensemble workshop to try some trio singing. If my voice is ready to cooperate...




Friday, October 08, 2004
6 days and counting
Or, It's all Sarra's fault!

It's not Sarra's fault that we are going to become a Kingdom a week from tomorrow, but it is her fault that I am beating my hands into a pulp embroidering blue fishies on the top bands of my Coronation gown tippets. She suggested it and I fell under the spell: a vision flashed through my head of shining smooth fishies swimming across my upper arms. I could not but follow. Especially since I just happened to have royal blue and white rayon embroidery thread. Oooo, satiny!

Rayon embroidery thread is unruly under the best of situations (kumihimo); it turns out it's worse to embroider with, knotting itself for no good reason, refusing to be pulled smoothly through the linen, and lying in funny stiff arcs over the fabric. I'm doing the outlines of the fish in stem stitch and the insides in split. Thus far I must admit it looks nice (I have four fish finished, out of ten) but my hands are killing me from yanking on the needle as it gets caught every single time I pull it through, right at the eye. Again: it's the thread. The needle's fine.

My thumb hurts and I appear to have a bump on the side of my right index finger. I foresee a blister. And once I get the fish done, I have two blank areas on each band; I had intended a white compass star, but that's looking like a whole lot of work. Maybe I'll (temporarily) attach decorative buttons? We'll see how far I get this weekend.

On the positive side, the underdress is finished except for hemming (I'm hoping I can get a kind Jararvellirite to help me mark the hem of both dress and underdress sometime next week when they're both done). The cotehardie itself has all the gores attached to the back, the back parts attached to each other, and all the facings in place and hand-topstitched. (That was before my hands were tired from embroidery.) I figure I'll budget a day for buttonholing/attaching buttons on the cotehardie next week. And the tippets themselves are cut & sewn; I just have to figure out how long I want them, sew some sort of decorative end (points? a V? I'm taking suggestions), turn them inside out & iron, and then when the tippet tops are ready I'll attach everything to the cotehardie sleeves, then set those in.

I know you, the patient reader, probably don't care about every detail of my Coronation garb. But this helped me block out what I have left to do, so humor me.

Today was nice, just staying home and getting things done. I did laundry, paid bills, got a few phone calls made, accomplished the aforementioned sewing/embroidery, and pre-registered for a couple of SCA events.

Oh, and watched the debate. This one was a tougher call than the last, but I was still very impressed with Kerry, and haven't seen anything impressive yet from Bush. Kerry did have one moment of freezing/forgetting the next word, but compared with Bush, who does that at least every question, that's nothing serious. This was definitely a combative debate; not very pleasant to watch, but then it's not meant as entertainment.

In fact I was musing on that fact during the debate itself: they were actually countering each other's arguments, which you didn't see much of in the first debate. Surely it was easier to do so when they could look each other in the eye, walk around, and relate to each other a bit. Entertaining? Not so much as it is interesting.

Think about it: an entire generation of young voters is (hopefully) watching these debates. I hope the concept is dawning on them that people can discuss things in a format that allows the participants to genuinely argue--not just recite their platforms in the same words over and over--without sacrificing logic, respect or control over themselves. These debates don't exist purely so the TV audience can watch Bush's eye twitch or make fun of Kerry's horse face, while the candidates spout platitudes. There is an actual goal--to find out where these men stand on issues, and hear their own words--and maybe we are finally approaching that goal. It's good for us. (And I think it still manages to be entertaining.)

Sarra's visit from Tues. to Thurs. was lots of fun. We are starting a list of things she wants to see in Madison, and we got a few things crossed off right away: Penzey's local store, Tropic Jewel bead store, the Soap Opera to gawk at exotic soaps, and then the State Capitol building to gawk at gorgeous architecture. I had never been to the 5th floor observation deck before; it turns out it's well worth it just for the view, not to mention the mini-museum of Capitol building history that wraps around that part of the dome, tended by a tired-looking State Historical Society employee. Very interesting stuff.

She also introduced me to her favorite movie, Amelie, which I liked immensely. It was pretty late at night when we watched it (Sarra was already under the covers and confessed to falling asleep here and there, but then, she'd seen it half a dozen times) so I'm not sure how much of it I got, esp. since I was looking at the TV from an odd angle and missed a few of the subtitles. (You would think that someone with a totally useless French degree would be able to catch things aurally if she didn't happen to read the subtitle, but it's easy to get lazy when you're a faster reader than listener.)

On the whole it was a delicious blend of fairy-tale optimism and sad, honest realism. I'd like to see it again, not only to catch the stuff I missed the first time around, but to see that reeeeeeally cute male lead again. It's funny: I rarely find French men attractive (unless they are ethnically from elsewhere), but those that I do, I find very attractive. Ignore-everyone-else-in-the-room, forget-what-you-were-saying attractive. Come to think of it, that may be why I missed some of the subtitles. ;)

Tomorrow: the 25th Anniversary Event in Milwaukee. Mostly an excuse to hang out at Dahrien & Mysie's afterwards. But I also want to sense the excitement among Northshielders of being six days from Coronation, the whispers and plans and grins and people feverishly embroidering. That last one will be me.

Ouch...




Monday, October 04, 2004
Some things are timeless
Or, Time...is on MY side...yes, it is...

I just got back from the UW Choral Union rehearsal. During the break, an older lady with a sweet smile came up to me and said, "You're back in Madison, huh?" I goggled at her for a little while and slowly, it dawned on me that this must be someone I knew when I was in Choral Union in graduate school. She went on to tell me that she remembered I was a librarian, that I had moved West, and that I had a really tall boyfriend (whom she thought she remembered meeting, but Dan only came to visit once and that was in June, after the CU season would have been over, so I don't think she did). She also remembered that I was Jewish and that my grandmother had never quite approved of my singing Christian religious choral music. (True, but not a big deal; Grandma lives in Indiana and I don't see her much.)

It all came flooding back: this was Beverly, a woman I used to sit next to when I was in Choral Union from 1993-1997. (This was back when I was more organized and would arrange things so I could arrive early and sit with her in the front row. I don't seem to have that skill anymore.) She still sits in the front row. She's very kind and smiley and I must have talked to her a lot. But I don't remember any of this in anything but the most vague way; actually, all I remember is her smile.

It's strange and wonderful to be back in Choral Union, because it never changes. Sure, individual members change over time (the very large lady who used to have to ride a scooter has lost at least half of her weight--good for her!), and new people join, and people leave as their schedules change. But overall it's about the same mix of students and community members. Dr. Taylor, the conductor, with whom I sang in CU for a year after grad school, has a different haircut but the same friendly manner and intensely well-thought-out rehearsal style. I don't think she's jarringly different in style from Robert Fountain, even. Her administrative assistant is a different guy but the same issues come up now as then: Do we have enough chairs? Can we get more copies of the music? White or black blouses for the performance dress for the women?

I even get the same feeling as I come down the stairs before every rehearsal. I don't mean the same as 1997 when I sang with CU last. I mean the same as 1989 when I sang with CU first. Mills Music Hall is the same; the lighting, the acoustics. Even the rhythm of my feet going down the steps is the same.

For some reason I am immensely grateful for all these things that haven't changed. There's no good reason they would have (though someone did mention that they had to rehearse in the Stock Pavilion one season; that would have been during my 8-year hiatus). But I'm grateful and relieved all the same. And I'm grateful for people like Beverly who are still around, still singing and still being welcoming towards other choir members.

The Known World Cooks' Collegium and Bardic Symposium (aka Cooks & Bards) was really quite good. I had my doubts as to how things would go, for reasons I don't want to go into here. And indeed, there were a couple things that fell off the schedule due to poor communication or planning. But overall things went fine. We had bards from the Outlands, the greater Midrealm, Ealdormere, Aethelmearc, and of course a lot of local Northshielders.

My class went very well, I thought--I had four attendees, but they were all enthusiastic and had enough musical background to appreciate the music and ask good questions. I changed a few things around from the plan I detailed in the previous post--largely because it turned out that not only could I not check out CDs from the music library, I also wasn't allowed to dub things off of them, not even for educational purposes. (The guy in charge of the audiovisual desk has a very poor grasp of the fair use doctrine.) So I was left with only one "Porque Llorax" recording, and that was the odd choral arrangement in which I first heard the tune. I opened the class with that, ran through some history, then had packets of sheet music and several matching tracks on various CDs to demonstrate several kinds of Sephardic songs. It was very satisfying to play "Mose Salio de Misrayim" all the way through for them, and watch their faces as the accompaniment became richer and more gorgeous with every verse. That's something I can't convey when I sing it a cappella.

I also led a panel discussion on bardic circles and how we run them, which was of so much interest to the attendees that it lasted twenty minutes after the time it was supposed to. It didn't get us too far off schedule: Owen and Garraed were doing separate classes the following hour on the role of the bard and the role of the patron, so when we finished the panel discussion they put their heads together and decided to combine their classes. That allowed us to stay in the same classroom and go smoothly from my discussion to theirs. It worked very well and people stayed interested.

(May I just say that it is an incredible luxury to have whiteboards all the way along two walls, and to have had the foresight to buy dry erase markers? It helped us structure the discussion, and after my panel was done, Owen and Garraed took the whiteboard on the opposite wall and I sat and copied the notes from the previous hour.)

I went to two other classes: Kudrun's class on poetic scansion, which took a very unusual approach to critiquing bad poetry, and Aaron Swiftrunner's class on bardic improv, which was all right. He had a few interesting things to say about the improv process and finding rhymes spontaneously, but the best part was his examples. He is really very talented. Someone would walk into the room to ask someone else a question, and Aaron would sing a little song about that person and what they were doing at the moment, continuing until they looked up and realized that someone they didn't even know was singing about them. I mean, you just don't expect that. The look on Baron Dagr's face was priceless.

I wasn't involved in the food part of the day, but Sarra was and she said she enjoyed it. One thing's for sure: we all enjoyed the feast. I honestly think it was the best food I have ever eaten at an SCA feast, and that's saying a lot. When I commented on this, I looked over at Shava and apologized (since she was the feastocrat for the Bardic Madness in Jararvellir), and she laughed and said she thought this one was better than hers, too. The performances continued through feast and the crowd was Bardic-Madness-quiet, listening politely.

Better than anything else was the companionship. I'm not going to name everyone who came great distances to be there; I'd forget someone. Personally I was glad to see Master Michael, who is a pal and flirting partner of mine from Pennsic and BMS, and who is sponsoring my Northshield Laurel Prize Tourney project. There are two poems translated thus far, and I was able to sneak off with him to get some feedback in the evening. He's a very good teacher.

The weekend was deficient in the sleep department, which is not a bad trait in an event! I think I got about 10 hours total from Friday morning to Sunday. We were up until the wee hours in the motel's breakfast room, singing and talking.

Master Aaron is fun to hang out with; he knows everyone in the SCA and has funny stories about half of them. And you get the feeling he's been like that for a long time--not just since he's been Society Seneschal. For being snarky to him (not seriously snarky, just being spirited, which he calls "festive") I received a small gold key on a red ribbon, and the title of "Deputy Society Seneschal for Taking Miscellaneous Blame". I think this is enormously funny and not a little frightening. He claims I will receive a warrant in the mail (yeah, like I've ever received one for any of my officer positions). I'll believe it--and be genuinely scared--when I see it.

Today: productive. Did grocery shopping, cleaned out my car, paid bills, and had lunch at Caspian Cafe. And I wrote a letter to my friend Kristen in La Crosse, whom I am realizing I sort of miss. She was my dinner-and-movie buddy, and (being a librarian too) she was always up for talking about library stuff. In a small but persistent way, I miss talking about library stuff with other library folks.

Maybe...all right, probably...I miss library work. Last night I dreamed I went back to work at Reference & Loan, where I had a part-time job in the year after grad school. In the dream, I had a plum job. But I was sharing a desk with this woman who used to work at Gundersen Lutheran but moved to Chicago, whom I never liked and was horrified to see at R&L. Then for some reason R&L was selling gourmet seafood and I had to leave my job because of my seafood allergy. Sometimes a dream takes a left turn into complete absurdity, doesn't it?

Parenthetically, Howard Dean is sort of cute, isn't he?

Sarra is coming to visit tomorrow. If she feels like it, we'll go see Al Franken's radio show in a live broadcast from the Union down on campus. Mom will positively explode with envy when she finds out. His show is her absolute favorite thing. But she's in Eastern Europe on a trip with her friend Barbara, and hey, I have no sympathy, she's having her own fun.

Oh yes, and if you are not currently registered to vote, remember to register and make use of your rights by voting on Nov. 2.






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