I guess March went out like a lamb (although up at A Sacred Place, it came in with three baby goats- I am so jealous!). We are in that strange part of spring when it’s too warm to run the woodstove as a matter of course, yet it’s still chilly without it. And boy! do I miss having the tea kettle on the boil! I have to go heat up the pot any time I want a cup of tea, and have gotten spoiled during the winter months.
Have you ever really thought about hot water? Forget “white privilege”, how about modern privilege? Just by turning on a tap we have water, pre-heated to our preference. For most of the history of the world can you imagine what that would mean? (even forgetting the whole convenience of our toilets) We don’t have to haul it miles (many people still have to do that), or even draw it from a well. We are confident in the safety of it for drinking, cooking and washing. If we want it hot enough for tea we don’t have to build a freaking fire to heat it. Compared to almost ever person who ever lived on this planet even the poorest of us are living in the lap of luxury! Next time you push a button on your coffee maker, or plop your teabag in your mug, (or flush), stop and appreciate how good we have it! (That’s what a history hobby does for you!) And, of course, there is the ineffable sensation of a hot shower. Oh ♩“water hot is a noble thing!” ♫ I have no idea that I’d love to visit a Roman Bath, but they aren’t available these days. I’m not sure modern people would be willing to invest the time, and since it is absolutely necessary that everyone clean themselves before entering the common pools, I’m not sure we have the sense of social responsibility to get people to do that, so not a modern thing.
We had some rain at the beginning of the week, and it snowed all day Saturday, “only” accumulated about three inches, and those went away in the rain. Still, I’d been planning on popping out to Mike and Beth’s Magickal Marketplace in Nashua, and that was the tipping point, so I didn’t go. It’s a lovely event, but the entertainment seems loud to me, and the babble in the vendors room chaotic. On the other hand, that’s a good thing. They are able to attract the vendors that attract the crowds, I was hoping to observe and try to figure out how they do it, because we need that formula to make CTCW work! Perhaps we need to get some entertainment. I’ve heard it suggested before, but the cost always made us leery. Perhaps Jane and I are just too tight with the money to do well in this business. Meanwhile, this week the snow drifts are receding, we can once again start putting the wood that was trapped by big storms (freezing the tarp to the ground) into the shed. We still had plenty to burn, I guess I over bought. Next year I’ll get a cord of green to age in our shed, and save some money.
I think the biggest “event” this week was when I helped Kat do her roots. This time instead of black, she went for blue and red, and I borrowed a little to color my “racing stripes. It’s fun, and looks better now than in this picture because the dye that was on the scalp has worn off. I don’t regret doing it, but will be happy when it fades again. It darkened the stripes and I’ve come to the conclusion that the white temples is a good look for me. Besides that, I used shampoo on my hair for the first time in I don’t know how long and it got frizzy again despite conditioner, so back to “no poo”, as I’m thoroughly convinced it leaves my hair much nicer. Meanwhile, I have blue and red stripes, (grin) and it matches my glittery (or this week, iridescent) nail polish.
The girls are getting ready for Anime Boston. Kat’s putting the final touches on the commission she’s been working on, and she’s delivering it there. As one would expect, the buy had a last minute alteration to request. This required another band of lace, and she came up six inches short! So this morning they ran off to get that, and a huge jewel for Willow. She’s planning on wearing her Rider cos-play on Saturday, so wanted something more comfortable to change in for the evening, and there’s a quick one she can whip up for that. They are torn between being excited about going, and being tired and worried that will complicate matters. Parking in Boston is so expensive, but shlepping luggage (especially the amount that cos-play creates) on the subway is exhausting, so decisions are still being made on that front.
I have spent what I consider way too much time on the internet, although I’ve tried to restrict myself to only 2 hours a day. The seduction of being able to pursue information on a random reference is hard for me to resist. I spend some time on the on-line course on Spirituality and Sensuality. This week the topic is sight and it’s about crosses. I can deal with that because they do talk about crosses in other religions than Christianity, Hindu, Native American, I’ll probably talk about Norse. The professor talks about what do you see when I draw a horizontal and vertical line on a blackboard- and didn’t mention what I’d immediately assume: a graph or chart. I keep remembering Fernando’s old joke about the whites showing the natives a cross: “You know what this is?” “Sure, it’s the symbol of the active and passive elements of the universe!” “No, it’s gold! You got any?” Sadly that’s all of the routine I can remember. I will probably submit something about the symbolism of the X (gifu) in Runes. The coursework doesn’t really take more than a few hours per unit (as opposed to the Great Courses which often run 12-18 hours of listening (not including the suggested reading), but listening is not even as interactive as the comments on line. That’s why I keep trying to loan people my courses, so we can talk about them.
Mostly I do facebook. I post what holidays are happening every day on LiveJournal (I’ll be stopping that when I’ve gone through the entire year.) But mostly I am excited to hear about my friends lives. I think this is especially important since I don’t leave the house for work every day, and in the last few months we haven’t gone to any events but Birka. Every day Ruadh shares beautiful photos, Cassandra, back from vacation with Gwyneth, reports that three of hives made it through the winter. Sarah lets us know about her grandfather’s progress in and out of the hospital, and a visit to Sturbridge Village. Goody’s cat went missing a week ago, and has still not turned up, (it is so hard when your pet goes away, you have to deal with possible loss and not knowing if you should be helping at once!). I’ve followed Sabina and Fergus’ adventures from missing an SCA event last weekend… to to sudden abdominal pain… sending her to the ER…. through drinking barium… to a gall-bladder-ectomy (“the offender has been evicted”)… to returning home today. Someone posted a funny comic with talking internal organs (here and here). It does seem like there’s a lot of hospitalization (her father was checked in down the hall from her just before she was checked out), but I try to tell myself it’s that social media let’s us let our friends know. And I’m glad to know about it, rather than not knowing. On a more positive note: Julia Passamonti is making amphora for a pompeii exhibit at the Royal Onterio Museum. I’d love to see it, but getting passports just to go to an exhibit seems like too much effort and expense. It might not if we hadn’t gone to the one at the Museum of Science last year. She’s been putting up pictures showing the process of making these huge amphorae and just looking at the series of pictures is incredible. (A collection of these pictures would make a great book, but she hasn’t got the time.) Anyway, that’s life on the internet. As I say, I get distracted by it too easily, too often. I used to be on a lot of Yahoo groups, but they changed last year (I think) and they’ve almost dried up. Except spammers. One I moderate gets about 4-7 (duplicate) pornography ads every day. Why do they even try that? I assume because if you send out enough you get some takers, but how annoying! They’re also doing it on the CTCW yahoo group. Phooey! There are some groups now on facebook. I look at them occasionally. There’s an archeology one I like, and the SCA Craftsmen site has pictures of gorgeous projects. I try not to get sucked into group discussions, but they are often so interesting!
I’m torn because I think I should spend less time on, but if someone writes me, I feel I should write back, so try to find any comments people have made.
Recently I’ve also been disturbed by the huge numbers of stories about laws being passed (and bills being moved forward) in various states. The one with the most stories going by my page is the one called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana. Governor Pence is already back-pedaling, saying it’s not meant to permit people to refuse services to gays, although one pizza place has already said that’s what it’s going to do. I want to know what religious liberties were lost that this is trying to restore? Frankly, while I support GBLT rights, I have to wonder if it means they’ll also refuse to serve people wearing pentagrams too? I understand that when you feel strongly that something is wrong, it bothers you to have to put up with it being accepted around you. I expect the southern plantation owners felt the same way when they saw their black ex-slaves taken from them after the civil war. We’ve seen how long it’s taking to try to change THAT world view! Or the attitude of bigots against Native Americans. Just because the law says they can use the restaurant, who’s going to make them serve the people of color if they “don’t see” them? Who’s going to enforce the laws that say they can use any toilet they want if the bigots choose to prevent them? The thing is, that just because someone really, truly believes something, it doesn’t mean that they should be allowed to make someone else’s life miserable because of that belief. I’m not sure it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t try their hardest to try to convince others that their perception is wrong, I’d like them to examine the evidence because I think it would come down on my side. But I’ve got 40 years of occult study behind me showing that if the skeptic comes in believing that what you do is impossible, the only thing they’ll see is errors and fraud. You can’t legislate a change of mind, only changes in actions.
Recently I’ve been coming back to something I’ve wondered since I first heard about it in high school: how could the oppression of the Jews (and gypsies, blacks, gays, communists, and others) have gotten so powerful that when it got to the point of systematic slaughter, the good people didn’t stop it? There must have been signs- like Krystalnacht, Brown shirts beating people up, etc. that made them nervous. I expect they thought the same things I’m hearing now, that it was an isolated incident, that it was exaggerated, it was impossible in this good country, it couldn’t be happening, the government wouldn’t let it, it’s not our place to do anything, it had to have been rumor mongers trying to scare people. The laws permitting it were not intended to hurt anyone, they were just being administrated badly. But I’m seeing case after case being reported now, in my life, in MY America, and I’m not seeing people objecting. We’re telling each other about it on the internet, but not doing anything but passing around petitions (which are worth the paper they are printed on.) Instead, I see people getting all upset about illegal immigrants, and closing the border- no, we won’t believe that they might be in danger in their own countries, we don’t want them here because we can’t speak their language! (Didn’t we feel guilty about doing that to the Jews after WWII?) In Tennessee they’ve legalized bullying in the name of Religion. In theory, a bunch of Jews or Pagans could use the law to allow them to bully Christian students, but we know that’s not going to happen because of the numbers involved. In Oklahoma the house passed legislation to end secular marriage. In Indiana, an Indian woman has been sentence to 30 years in prison for feticide. Yes, not only did she suffer the trauma of miscarriage, but she’s being prosecuted for it. So many times people say these laws are not meant to be used this way- but if they ARE being used this way, we have to deal with that reality. Give a guy a badge, or a position in a bureaucracy, and he’ll feel compelled to uphold the system that gives him power to do so. The message of the feticide law is the message of the Right to Life movement: an adult woman’s human rights are less than those of any fetus. This is based on the myth that a fetus is a human being. One law at a time the people who believe that myth are working to do what they can to prevent what is, in their eyes, mass murder. I accept their motivation, but I reject their premise. I can’t fault them for trying, but I worry if they succeed. Not just about reproductive freedom, but once they have that power, there are many other “faith based” issues where I expect they would want to exert control. In South Dakota the state kidnapping of native children has been described as genocide according to the UN General Assembly’s definitions. This is not what happened in the bad old land stealing days, this is going on now. Why? How‽ Don’t we know better? Maybe as a nation we have all the aspirations and lofty goals we were taught about as children. Maybe we still want freedom and respect for everyone, but where are they in action? We get so caught up in worrying about terrorism, global warming, immigration, GMOs, reproductive rights, gun rights, unemployment, Obamacare, super bugs, Social Security…. on and on. So many things and we’re told to pick one or two to worry about and vote on. Is that what was going on in Germany in the 30s? Were people so caught up in dealing with the effects of the depression that they accepted scapegoating of Jews, and communists so they wouldn’t have to feel so scared about everything else? Were the Saxons scapegoating the Vikings back in the 8th century? What’s going on‽
The political poll calls have started again (the election is 20 months away!), and frankly, as I listen to the Republican’s being suggested I’m appalled. When I was younger there were lots of Republicans I really admired, but these days they seem to either be crooked like Christi and Guinta, or fired up for “Family Values” like Ted Cruz and Rick Perry. I believe in fiscal responsibility, but at the same time, I am aware that sometimes investing in meeting people’s needs is cheaper than trying to force people to manage without help. Can we go with the cheaper system if it works? They sometimes seem so worried about money going to the “undeserving” that they waste way too much of our money to avoid it. And frankly, that angry, punishing attitude is bad for the people doing it. We shouldn’t build anger and suspicion into our government where it will fester and turn good men bad. Still, I recognize that getting news through “social media” is nearly as bad as getting it through Fox “news”. When one story comes up, old stories that seem similar are resurrected, and it’s hard to miss that they aren’t current when you’re just glancing at headlines. I know humans are built to see patterns, perhaps even where they don’t exist, but if there’s a pattern of erosion of people’s rights, we need to stem it as early as we can. These laws make me think the camel’s got it’s nose into the tent, and we’re a neck away from a theocracy- and not one run by the merciful generous ones.
I prefer finding and sharing good news, and since I’ve just wallowed in things I worry about for several paragraphs, I should at least mention a few heartening headlines. The coolest is a story about a medical researcher who got together with an Anglo-Saxon historian and tested some of the formula from Anglo-Saxon leechbooks. They found an old saxon stye cure (based on garlic) works against MRSA, which would sure be a good thing for hospitals. Another story suggests that Claritin, the allergy remedy, could help with Lyme disease; and another study suggests that eating bacon may prolong your life, although I wonder if it’s not that people who go ahead and eat bacon anyway are happier and so live longer. There’s an Australian study on an Alzheimers treatment that’s restored memory- in mice anyway. Hey, I’ll take what we can get! Alzheimers, like Cancer, is a bitch and cures are good. Now that I’m over 60, I probably worry about Alzheimers too much. I’ve ALWAYS had aphasia and misphasia, but now it seems so much more sinister.
I have probably been reading too much. Solving fictional mysteries in ancient Rome is so much more pleasant than getting to the cleaning and other things I should be doing in the 21st century and reality. Dark Omens is another wonderful Libertas mystery (Roman Britain, second c.). I especially relate to Libertas because he’s old, artistic, family oriented, always worried about making ends meet, and this mystery was complicated with a blizzard and cold. If you are interested, I think I’ve got copies of most of them I’d be happy to lend out. Since I enjoyed Parthian Shot, I ordered the first of the Marcus Corvinus books: Ovid, and have started the second, Germanicus. The next is Sejanus; Corvinus is a young patrician, who has curiosity and a sense of being entitled to know anything he wants to (and the means to spend time and money doing it). I enjoyed watching him meet and woo his wife from Parthian Shot, and was surprised that in the earlier books he doesn’t talk like Sam Spade, but more like the wealthy, cultured patrician he is. I think from the titles of the first books, Wishart liked the idea of looking at the surviving evidence of real historical mysteries and trying to figure them out- with a twist to keep things interesting. I remember once reading a time travel book in which the modern person realized that he was surprised that Theseus was a big guy because Mary Renault’s Theseus in The King Must Die, was small. (She figured he must have been if he was a bull jumper.) You get things in your head from reading fiction, and I wonder how much of what I’m reading about Rome is changing my perception of it in a similar way? So far Corvinus is fun, but no where near as appealing as Falco or Libertas. I’m also gradually reading my way through an anthology of short stories: The Mammoth Book of Roman Whodunnits. Since there seem to be a huge number of period mystery writers, I figure that if I read through this and spot one I especially enjoy, I can look for that series. I’m currently on another female “detective” story. So far she hasn’t grabbed me. I was, on the other hand, enchanted by the characters in The thieves of Ostia. When I searched for Roman Mysteries, it turns out there’s a series by that name, it’s juvenile, which means that it’s written about a couple of 12 year olds who solve mysteries, and if I recall correctly, that means that it’s aimed at 10 year old readers. They have vocabulary at the back, and I am charmed. I remember reading all the Historical Twins books by Lucy Fitch Perkins when I was a kid (second grade I think). I figure they taught me as much history and geography as I got from Swiss Family Robinson (which I re-read every year probably until I got to college), but I loved them. Willow picked up a juvenile book as well: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, which was another quick read and lots of fun. Like Hugo it’s heavily illustrated- but in this case with weird old photographs that advance the plot. I was rather tweaked to get to the end and discover the story continues to another book. Our library has it, but I am highly suspicious that it is the start of a trilogy and the third book isn’t out yet. I don’t mind series where each book is complete, but hate when the actual story is continued. I think I might be able to get the third book as an ebook, but don’t want a partial series, and the library hasn’t got it yet. Also I haven’t quite figured out how to borrow ebooks from the library yet. That sounds like it could be dangerous for me. I havn’t watched as many movies this week, the library keeps sending me blue-ray even though I’m careful to order DVDs, so something comes and I have to return it and try again. I’m not sure their website has that figured out properly.
I watched Edge of Tomorrow, which was something like Groundhog Day, only not funny, and with spectacular effects. Tom Cruise’s character kept living the same day over and over, but he was trying to save humanity, not just himself (science fiction, alien invasion, that sort of thing). As with Groundhog Day, it was a learning experience for both of them. It also reminded me of Tom Holt’s book Valhalla, in which a poor shmuck who LARPs being a viking wakes up in Valhalla and finds out just what fighting all day until you die and then doing it again and again every day is like. Not quite the version of heaven for which he’d hoped. I also watched Perfume: the story of a murderer, a weird story of a man with a keen sense of smell who wants to save the scent of perfect beauty. There’s something Ayn Randish about his total lack of emotional interaction with other people. It makes the other characters (Dustin Hoffman and Allen Ricman) so much more poignant. I watched the first season (feh, they call 3 episodes a season?) of the Upstairs-Downstairs 2010 reboot. Sadly for Jean Marsh, when it finished in 1975 they’d gotten to 1930, just after the market crash. Having just watched the Kings Speech I knew that the abdication was in 1936, so although Jean Marsh aged 35 years, Rose was supposed to have only aged 6. (Those intervening years must have been rough on her!) Given that they said the house had been empty for 6 years, there may not have been other occupants, at least not for long. Be that as it may, while I resist updated versions of old favorites, this was fantastic. The new characters were as wonderful as the original, and I’d have loved to follow them on through adventures. This was just enough to get you to like the characters. I’ve requested the “second season” but fear it will be too brief (the BBC frustrates me with 6 episode seasons)! I also watched a documentary, or collection of four half-hour documentaries: Ancient Greece the traditions of Greek culture. The first was Art in Ancient Greece, mostly images with very little narration. What there was convinced me that it had originally been written in Greek (probably) and translated poorly. For example, every artifact I recognized as bronze they described as “copper”, called gryphons “vultures”, and there were other odd lapses like that. The images were lovely though, and while I recognized many, there were some I hadn’t seen elsewhere. I also disagreed with the writer who disparaged some pieces of ceramics I thought were lovely, and admired some I thought fussy and overdone. Ah well, that’s taste, right? Then there was Mining in Ancient Greece, while it covered the bronze age to the iron age, armory, jewelry, and coins, it had almost nothing to do with mining, metalwork maybe. If they were talking mining, they should have mentioned the effect that the discovery of new silver mines in the fifth century had on Athenian power. The documentary showed stuff from many museums in Greece and Macedon, but didn’t say which were where. In Bacchus, the God of Wine, they filmed some girls recreating bacchanalian ecstatic dancing, whether this was staged for the film or because it’s a local custom, they didn’t say, but I’m guessing the latter because the girls dresses were all of different quality, so I’m guessing self provided. I don’t know, but they also filmed a folk festival with dancers in goatskins outfits and tall (I’m talking four feet) furry black helmets called barbossa, with huge bells on their belts and carrying wooden swords, dancing around a fire on the hillside. It ends with a ritual “killing” of one of them (then they take off the tall hats and dance more exhuberantly!). These dancers remind me a lot of the Krampus figures seen at Yule further north. What can the connection be? By rewinding (no subtitles), I got that they were from Nikisiani, and the dancers are called Arapides (I found a more recent film on youtube. That was described in Greek, so I ran it through the Google Translator and was somewhat taken aback when it described them as “niggers”. It occurs to me that’s just what came up for “black fellows’. Who’d have thought that word would even be in a translation program? But the youtube film described the festival as marking the end of the 12 days of Christmas. St. John’s Day, January 7th. This is another similarity to Krampus men.). The documentary said that the Arapides used to come out to scare off attackers. That would account for the height of the hats, masks and “weapons”. Interestingly, they argue that while Zeus was the head of the Olympians, in Macedon, Dionysus was the Best and Greatest, and the main god- in charge not just of wine, but music, agriculture, oracles, and just about everything else. I wonder for what periods that is true? Finally, Firewalking in Greece is a documentary about the celebration in late may in the town of Eleni, where people walk on coals to honor Sts. Constantine and Elena, and commemorates a time when a church caught on fire, and the icons protected those who went in to save them. This documentary was made 20 years ago, I think in Greece, all the names on it except the narrator are Greek. I wish it weren’t so old, I’d love to follow up on some of these documentaries.
I’ve finally finished Greece and Rome An Integrated History of the Ancient Mediterranean. It was good, but since the professor approached it topic by topic (like women, slaves, religion, commerce), rather than chronologically, I didn’t get the progression I’d like to have seen. I tend to think that things develop from what went before them. That’s why I was excited about this- there’s interaction we don’t see in most history courses. How can we understand Europe if we don’t cover the Ottoman Empire? How can we understand the Middle East if we don’t recognize the level of civilization they had over the past 5 thousand years? We are told nothing about African empires, or the achievements of India, or China. You can’t talk about the fall of the Roman Empire without explaining why the great Migrations were happening, which means you need to explain the Huns. I’ve now started listening to The Barbarian Empires of the Steppes (and am pulling the books on the Silk Road out from the piles towering over my bed.
Wow, nothing happened this week. We’ve got to get out more! Or at least I’ve got to come up with new recipes, or something to write about, or you’re going to be subjected to more of my political/philosophical ramblings, and all the stuff I’m studying.
Until next week…
“And sin, young man, is when you treat people like things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.” Granny Weatherwax
in Carpe Jugulum Terry Pratchett