Sunday, February 11, 2018

I learned medieval stuff this weekend!

On Saturday, February 10th, 2018, The East Kingdom of the Society for Creative Anachronism held it's annual Arts & Sciences and Bardic Championship the Crown Province of Ostgardr (the greater NYC area). This event gives folks the opportunity to showcase their work in making things and historical research.

I learned so much at this event! I have been in the SCA for about 30 years and while I do my share of research and making things, I have never dedicated myself to a specific project or discipline to the degree and focus that the top levels of this competition do. The remarkable thing about doing this kind of research is that not only do you learn how a thing was done, you can learn why a thing was done, you can learn how a thing fit into a culture, you can appreciate the journey that humans have made in culture and technology.

I learned that "bowed cotton" is fluffier than cotton batting, and that sewing your gambeson pattern pieces as a pillow and beginning the quilting in the middle is a thing that can be done and can benefit your final product. Also that if you make a sample piece of your quilted garment, you can calculate the reduction in measurement of the pattern pieces that happens during quilting so that you know how much to over-size the piece when cutting it.

I learned that people carried wax tablets on which to write things, either they wrote temporary things meant to be erased later, like grocery lists, or else the tablet was turned over to a scribe to copy down in ink, then erased. This meant that some folks carried three, or five, or even ten tablets on which to write things, like business deals or tax assessments. This made me wonder if there were medieval "copy shops," in which scribes worked and one could deliver one's wax tablets to be trans-"scribed."

I learned that papercutting is an art in just about every culture with paper. A fellow at the event is researching evidence that the creative art of papercutting traveled with the technology of papermaking itself as it traveled from culture to culture. Of course, as each culture had different paper (the Chinese had rice, the Germans had wood pulp, and the Aztecs had tree bark), each had different tools to cut the paper (knives, scissors, and chisels, respectively). Multiple layers of different colored paper an also be used for different effects.

I learned that Welsh breadmaking did not involve a lot of wheat flour until late in the medieval period, so bread baked in the 1100's in Wales may have used oat flour, but it seems to be difficult to recreate a recipe and baking technique for bread used in a particular Welsh festival feast without it, using only ingredients that could have been found there then.

Putting all this together, it made me think of a story in which a fellow went to a tailor to have a new gambeson made, and the tailor wrote down his measurements on a wax tablet. He took the tablet to a scribe, who wrote it down on a small piece of parchment. This parchment was lost, however, and found by a papercutter, who used it to cut a design in celebration of the Welsh festival coming up.

I look forward to learning more!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Captain Zorikh at Wicked Faire this weekend!



Hi Friends! Happy new year to all of you! Every single one! Let's make it a great one together!
This year is starting off with a bang for me. This coming weekend I am returning to the wicked Faire at the Hayatt Regency in Princeton, NJ, where I will be making music and screening video!
AS has become tradition, the Time Travelling Bard will be singing songs and telling stories covering everything from Cyborgs to cowboys, from viking ships to railroads, from the War Between the States to a Galaxy Far Far Away, most often with tongue firmly in cheek, twinkle flashing in eye, and head lost in the clouds! This will happen Friday night at 11:30 PM.

https://www.facebook.com/events/155312868523540/
Then on Saturday at 3:30 PM, for the first time ever, the documentary "Return to Pennsic" will be screened for the public in its completed form! There will be a Q&A afterwards about the making of this project and what it means.
Finally, at 1:30 PM on Friday. I will be hosting the Three Chord Monte Open Jam! This is a jam session that happened spontaneously at the Steampunk Worlds Fair last year and was so much fun we will be doing it again! basically it means we will play every song we can, and some songs we shouldn't, with a 1-4-5, three chord arrangement. That means if you know any one of those three notes, you have a one in three chance of playing the right one at the right time!
So come on down, it will be a blast!

And yes, I know there has been some drama in the organization, and for those who are involved in any part of it, it is a serious matter. But this event has been, for a lot of us, a wonderful, amazing, fun way to hang out with like-minded people and share a culture we love in an environment where we can be who and what we are and what we want to be without judgements and with appreciation.
In addition to me, there will be lots of amazing, fantastic, spectacular entertainments, activities, and vendors, and there are some rooms still available at the hotel. The parties can be epic, and the memories will last forever!
http://www.wickedfaire.com

I hope to see you there!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Why This Mid-Winter Holiday is Important

It is that time of year again.

That's right, this is when I say something about this day and its impact on what we do this day, every year.

About two thousand-some-odd years ago, someone may or may not have been born who, in his 33 or 34 year life span, inspired stories that inspired events that (long story short) created the world in which we live today. At one point, someone even decided to count the years from the assumed year of his birth. Somewhere in there the observed date of his birth was moved to coincide with a mid-winter holiday, and here we are.

In time, the traditions surrounding the celebrations of his birth became entwined with the traditions of the mid-winter holidays wherever it was celebrated, until now we have this crazy hodge-podge melange of traditions filling our houses and bringing people together. On top of that, other religions and cultures have made their holidays of the season more culturally impactful, and other traditions of the season have even been created in answer to this. And in addition, the traditions around this season have become the greatest engine for consumption and economic activity in history (maybe. It sure feels that way. Someone else can do the math).

But more important than all this is the fact that, despite the economic impact, despite the lack of connection in the popular imagination with the sources of the many traditions that have been integrated into today's festivities, in spite of the fact that there are some who specifically have different traditions in this season, there is one through-line in all of it.

This is the time when we all are culturally obliged to forget our differences. We are encouraged to come together and be nice to each other.

If only we had more opportunities like that.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Poetry in the Age of Trump: The 7 Words the CDC Can't Say.


The following poem is in response to the news item covered in these reports:
Word ban at CDC includes 'vulnerable,' 'fetus,' 'transgender'
Holy fracking shit and piss. What the actual fuck is this?
Disease control requires words of precision,
Regardless of whether they are above the president's derision.
If "diversity" is not a thing you can say,
What is you need a variety of foods in a day?
"Entitlements" exist, for rich and for poor,
They won't go away just for wishing they were no more.
"Transgender" is a thing, I know several of them.
Believe it or not, there are things we can learn from them.
"Science-based" and "evidence-based" now has to go through community standards?
What if the community is wrong, you bastards.
If you cannot use the word "fetus,"
Tell me what is coming out of that woman's anus?
"Vulnerable" is maybe the most important word
The CDC can say, of all those that are heard.
Diseases attack, they prey and they kill.
They need controlling, or we all will be ill.
We are all vulnerable, some more than others,
And targeting is necessary to protect fathers, children, mothers.
So if someone is at risk, why should you not say
What means exactly that every single day?

My gosh and my god what are they thinking?
What are they smoking, what are they drinking?
Does everyone really need something to hate?
We are all going to die, sooner or late.
If someone is trying to help us live longer,
Shouldn't we be trying to make their work stronger?

Now if you don't trust "science," consider this:
How do they analyze what's in your piss?
Do you like cell phones, watches, and cars?
Do you like to take airplanes to travel far?
Do you like rayon and nylon and plastic and glue?
Do you like Vibram soles on the bottom of your shoe?
The device you read this on, do you like it well?
Did you grow up with Atari or toys from Mattel?
Does your camera take pictures, either digital or film?
Do you wear bifocals, use lotion on your skin?
Do you take medicine for a headache or cold?
Do you take a pill for an erection when you get old?
All those are things science has done for you.
But don't just trust me, you know this is true.

So if you don't like science, go live in a tent
Without central heating, air, or a vent.
Don't bother with soap, eat whatever you choose,
And there won't be a single tool you can use.
If after all that, you still will not give
A dollar to science that helps people live,
Then get out of that office you moved into not long ago,
Get on your feet and walk to Mar-A-Lago.

So if you want to go to the moon, you and VP Pence,
There's only one way to do it: It's called SCIENCE!

Now if you think you have something to say,
Say it in verse. Here, that is the way.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Petain and Laval on Broadway

This is NOT a post about Confederate statues. It is about the news that the Mayor of NYC wants to remove the line on Broadway commemorating Philippe Petain's ticker-tape parade on Broadway many years ago. The news report described him as "Nazi collaborator."

For those who don't know, Petain was the leader of France when they signed the armistice with Germany in 1940 that ended hostilities between the two countries (it was not a capitulation. It was more like what we have in Korea, where diplomats talked every day to come up with a permanent settlement. Of course the terms were dictated by Nazi Germany, but it did give France a degree of autonomy, as well as letting France keep its colonies, enough military to defend them, and its navy).

Up until the Germans took over the entire country after the North African invasion in 1942, Petain oversaw a new France, and resisted re-entering the war on the side of the axis. Of course France also rounded up thousands of Jews and delivered them to the Nazis tender care without the help of a single German. The bottom line is that it was a shameful episode in the history of France, brightened only by the facts that Paris, and most of France, escaped the devastation that happened to Poland and the Soviet Union, and that another Frenchman, Charles deGaulle, led "Free France," a resistance movement that wound up maintaining French sovereignty and getting it it the front row of allied nations by the end of the war.

Petain was tried and convicted of treason and sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted by deGaulle to life imprisonment. He had been the "Hero of Verdun," savior of France in The Great War. He had dedicated his life to France, and when he found himself in the driver's seat of the nation as the military situation in France appeared to be worse and worse every day, he did what he thought was best to save the nation. Whether or not he was right really depends on your priorities and view of history.

He marched on Broadway on October 26, 1931, just four days after Pierre Laval, who was Premiere of France at the time.

Laval was an opportunistic, antisemitic, collaborating weasel who gave Germany almost everything he thought they would want. He was tried for treason and executed.

Both of these men have lines on Broadway commemorating their 1931 ticker-tape parades. So do Ngo Dinh Diem, president of South Vietnam, and Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and Empress Farah of Iran. This is hardly a hall of honor of unequivocally admirable national leaders.

This week monuments to Confederate generals are being taken down as part of the fallout from the demonstration by Confederate flag-waving white supremacists, the counterdemonstration by those who oppose them, and the violence that followed. Now there is talk of taking away any "monument to hatred."

These foreign dignitaries did not fight to protect the states' rights to own slaves. They showed up in NYC in a period of time in which any head of state or war hero coming to NYC was a big enough deal that a ticker-tape parade was held. At the times in which they made their walks down the "Canyon of Heroes" they had not done most of the things for which they would become infamous.

For me, this is a reminder - a discovery, really - that there were times when certain people where considered admirable and even honored, but our city, nation, and world. A reminder/discovery also that people can make bad choices, or be in the wrong place, or simply be the wrong person in a place,even after being honored.

They were here. They are a part of NYC history, warts and all. There is nothing by their names explaining anything about them, good or bad, nor is there about any other head of state. Leave them there. 
PS: I just saw a commercial for Gabrielle "Coco" Channel. She was in France during the German occupation. She had close relations with high-ranking Germans, and tried to take over her Jewish partners' share of her perfume line.  Oh, the irony.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A bit of a dream of which I wish I remembered more

Last night I went to bet around midnight, which is a little early for me on a Saturday, but my GF was tired and so was I. At about 2:30 in the morning I awoke from a vivid dream with a very cohesive storyline. I ran it through my head a couple of times to try to remember it because I intended to get up in the morning and write it down. I fell asleep, woke up again some time later still thinking about it, then fell asleep again, had another vivid dream, and when I woke up the original dream was gone. I have a slight memory of what it might have been about, but the dream memory has been replaced by the later one.

I did feel that the later dream was a continuation of the earlier one, though. Here is how it went:

There was a guy, a middle-aged black man, who was a sort of mentor figure to the heroes of the story (that was part of the earlier dream). He hung out a t a bar like the kind you might imagine in one of those gritty New York City movies from the 1970's where Bad, Bad Leroy Brown might hang out. His enemies, however, had determined that he had interfered in their operations enough.

One day he was in the bar, at his usual seat, and he had ordered a hamburger. As he began to eat his hamburger, his enemies (who also looked like they came out of a gritty 1970's NYC movie) said something insulting to him or about him. He then proceeded to rip a car door off the wall (I don't know why there was a car door hanging on the wall). This proved his strength and how he was not about to take no shit. His enemies, of course, had a plan to attack him in a manner that he woudl not be expecting, but I woke up before actually seeing it happen.

In the previous dream (in my memory, and dream memories are funny, changeable things), there were two or three scenes with this guy in this bar, but there was also some sort of scene that may have involved some sort of quasi-mystical thing involving a lightsaber or something. this mento had a strong role to play in the guidance of the hero or heroes,, (one of whom ay have been me).

I really wish I remembered that dream. Next time I am getting up. To heck if it is 2:35 in the morning! I am writing these dreams down!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Justin Bieber on a Train

Having a day job and a night job some days a week, I have taken to afternoon naps. I just woke from one in which I had this entertaining dream:

I was on a modern cross-country train, like something out of the movies, in which I had a friend who was much like some sort of leading character in the TV show "friends." He was lean, had long-ish hair, and all he wanted to do was to get ahead in the world of celebrity fashion advising. He had an apartment in this train (you would cal is a "small studio apartment" or a "room" in New York, but it would be considered quite large by train standards. This was sort of what I imagine that 1979 TV show "Supertrain" would have been like) and we would sit talking about how life is betraying him.

For my part, I would up in another part of the train suddenly deciding (in a Brendon Burchard-inspired manner) that dammit, I was going to record something in the music studio. I had songs that needed to be recorded and I was going to share them with the world.

But as I started to had down the train to the recording studio, I came face-to-face with Justing Bieber. He said that he had just booked the recording studio for the next week to record his new album (and he was being a bit of a douche about it too).

So I sat him down and told him that I had a friend who could help him out. He had been worrying about declining popularity lately. I said: "I have a freind who can dress you in clothes that will make people stop and task 'who made that amazing thing that he is wearing?"

As I continued to talk up my friends fashion advice skils, I noticed that he was wearing a blue, short girl's top that was tight around the chest, showed his belly, and had short puffy sleeves. He was wearing something equally efeminate on his lower body. I figured this was some sort of retro-'80's madonna/Boy George kind of thing done awkwardly. This boy needed help.

So my friend appeared and stood before him as he sat on a large box or something and linked his fingers with Justin Bieber's, arms outstretched and palms down, as if he was some sort of messiah figure. He looked in his eyes and told him "I will find you the clothes that will change your life. This will be so good for you. People will want to wear what you are wearing and will be talking about it as they scream your name wanting to know what it is. This will be a start of a new chapter for you."

So we took Justin Bieber to my friend's room to discus this. Justin Bieber was totally enthralled. We got there and the room was a mess, the way a man's room can be a mess when he no longer has any care for order or hygiene and the word has gotten away from him. There were clothes all over the place the floor was nowhere to be seen, unwashed dishes and half-eaten food was present, the place was just a big, unholy mess. I explained: "He has been through a rough emotional patch lately."

As my friend and Justin Bieber st down on what I think was a bed, there were large, dangerous insects flying around the middle of the room, and one of them stung me as it brushed past.

I left the room and wound up on the sidewalk where I saw a bunch of comic-con cosplayers in G.I. Joe costumes gathering to wait for a bus. I said "There are insects in there that are big and nasty and have stingers with stingers attached!"

It seems that cosply was a big thing an a neighborhood newly designated as "Helio Sphere," although I was not 100% certain that that was the name of a neighborhod or something else. The neighborhood in questions was dominated by a tall tower with a round flying-saucer-type thing on top, sort of like those rotating restaurant sky-needle type towers around the world.


The crowd of cosplayers got larger, as there was some reason that it was better for them to be here on their way to whatever event to which they were going than anywhere else. I asked "Is Helio Sphere a neighborhood or something else?"

Right about then I woke up.