1/27/2010 Creative Frugality

This week we had rain and fog- kinda made me feel like the shoveling we did last week was foolish because it would have melted by now- of course, there’d have been no way to know that it would happen before spring. The Oil company has taken this opportunity to refill our tanks, which I think is brilliant.
I was thinking about the shoveling- I actually enjoy it, but I think that’s because I am NOT having to get up early to make sure I can get the car dug out so I can get to work at the same time as always. So there’s no big stress associated with my shoveling. Almost anything can be turned into a nasty job by attaching an arbitrary deadline to it, so that a reasonable amount of variation can make it seem to be a huge failure if you can’t control it. Considering that so many factors in our lives (from the weather, to interactions with other people, to outside events) aren’t under our control, no wonder just doing what needs to get done becomes a huge stress for us. We aren’t living within the world, we are trying to ride on it, independent of it. Obviously, it’s a lot easier to interact with other people when you can schedule when you are going to get together to do something, but at the same time, this insistence that things be timed is unnecessarily stressful. There must be some way to maintain our larger goals without imposing a system that makes us all crazy. Supposing, for example, on snow days, businesses opened when the people got there- but everyone knew get that they’d be a bit late because they were shoveling out, and just took that into account. Everyone would drive to work less frustrated, in a slightly staggered schedule, and there would probably be less accidents. I can see that for the person who’d hoped to “pop in” and buy something at the usual opening time, it could be frustrating, but then, why is it that they NEED whatever it is? This would have to extend to the whole culture. It would be a huge change in attitude, and personally, I’m not convinced that we’d be less efficient because of it. Just the health benefits of the reduced stress might offset the other apparent losses in efficiency. Many of the criteria we use to judge efficiency are only chosen because they are easily measurable- when other less quantitative factors are considered, many of our systems may not be very efficient at all.
So Thursday and Friday I spent working on the cover for the handout with the schedule and site map they have for Birka. I think this is my fourth one, and I’m tempted to make up a few sets of post cards to offer for sale- except that I doubt many people send postcards anymore. There was the one with the pile of artifacts, the one with the lady looking through her purchases, the street scene, and this one has a version of the Osberg ship. This year I was able to find out what the site tokens were going to be and incorporate that into the design. I”m pleased with how it came out. I also did a cartoon- I wasn’t sure that wouldn’t have been even more popular, but Katherine Smith who’s doing it figures that we needed something more serious to counter the image of the SCA as a frivolous group that is more interested in fun than research. I discovered, once again, that I really enjoy the research and design part of a cover.

Yesterday Cathy called me and talked me through making a “fan page” for Cabochons on Facebook. So although I still haven’t figured out how to update my website, I can post our schedules there. Willow was going to do Jeff Mach’s Wicked Faire- which is sort of an indoor Renaissance Faire, but with even more various subcultures blended, so I’m guessing it has even less Renaissance references than the King Arthur/Viking/Fairy/Pirate melanges about which I have so vociferously complained in the past. I expect that they have in common with them leather bodices, swords, celtic knotwork, some vague attempts at Magical creatures, and but mostly- Coyote Run is playing there, and I’m eager to hear them again!
Today Kat talked me through putting up a page on Deviant Art (I used Tchipakkan as usual- I feel I am “a bear of very small brain” and don’t want any more aliases. I’ve just put up a couple of images so far. In theory, I have a bunch of pictures and scans of my artwork to put up, but a lot of it isn’t loading, and I still haven’t figured out why the pictures I’m taking with my new camera will up load, but not be retrievable from the iphoto cache when I do. Frustrating! I may have to take the computer in to be looked at- but I am certain that when one drops it off, all they do is look for deviations from the norm, which certainly won’t help with “you don’t know how to run the program (you moron)” at all, and usually that’s the problem. It’s what Ælfwine called a “wetware” problem. (As opposed to – is the fact that the printer refuses to print black and white images when it is “low” on yellow toner, even though it doesn’t need any a hardware or software problem? I think because it stops before there is any loss of color at all, it’s programmed to do it. If it wouldn’t print because it was out of ink- or the power was out, that would be hardware.) We did have one power outage this week I have no idea why, it was just raining. Of course, it was very dark, since it was raining, but we met it with laughter and song and a feeling of smug superiority.
When I’d done the drawing for the Birka cover, Kat also showed me how to use photo-shop to clean it up, which was fun. It turns out that she is marvelously patient in the area of teaching me how to do new computer stuff. Sadly, this only helps when she knows the system already.
No new recipes this week. I got two small pieces of salmon and tasted them- wild Atlantic vs. Sockeye salmon. Sadly, we could all tell that the sockeye (which is half again as expensive) does taste better. Oh well. Other than that we are hunkered into winter comfort foods: we had one of the small turkeys I stock up on in November, spaghetti, ham, roast chicken, pork pies (I like the way they look in the muffin pans- like the ones in Sweeney Todd- but on the other hand, when I make them shaped like ?”hot pockets”, they’re easier to eat, and easier to freeze and microwave later. Monday I missed the steak grilled over the coals of the woodstove- Honour and I went over to Judy and Terry’s Craft night at Keene. There was a LOT of fog, as it had warmed up- and a lot of people out walking in it. Either they were suicidal (probably not) or just so excited that the weather was above freezing that they had to get out and walk whether there was fog or not. Judy says she’s going to be having the craft night every other week, and I’m thrilled because finally there’s something on this side of the state again. Svava was there- I thought she was up in Dartmoth, but apparently not any more. I worked on the gold embroidery on my new gown- it’s going to take a very long time, but it’s going to look so good! Since Judy has four kids now (that I saw, I think there may be more) it totally makes sense for her to host the gatherings, because moving kids around is more trouble than moving projects! As usual, I was amazed at how the kid I remembered as a crawling baby has turned into a really cool, if young, person. Their family reminds me of ours in the eighties. Sigh.

So there’s a whole crew working their tails off getting ready for Birka (Ragnar is handling the security and has posted requests for help), and Anjoli is getting ready for the Mensa RG, and I’m sure the Arthens are all working on the Feast of Lights- I’ve been asked to play a role in the Stags Masque- not sure what yes, but why not? I answered the call for staff for the Memorial Day Faire at A Sacred Place- since the kids don’t need me to run the shop, I’m going to be the Vending Liaison (Brian is the overall event coordinator). It seems to me that on any given day, there are hundreds of events that only occur because someone- lots of someone’s- have busted their butts to make it happen. Liz, from down the street, “got suckered into” helping with the costumes for a play Tori is in at her school, so we went through our old chest of children’s garb. She may well have put herself forward knowing she had me as a resource on which to draw. We each sit inside a web of interlocking systems with so many people putting so much effort into making things work well. It’s reassuring and rather endearing to think of all those people putting so much love and effort in to making something for others to enjoy.
Our interactive circles spin- this week there were three names on our SCA lists of people who’d died- I knew Rannvegr (actually, she’s not dead yet, just been sent home to die under hospice care of a fast moving cancer). We usualy chatted once a year at the war, she was a chiurgeon- those who provide free medical care at events. I guess we’re getting to be “that age”.
Megan has come up with a new idea- she’s going to be offering “tea parties” at her house- very British tea parties with Devonshire clotted cream and lemon curd and scones and small cakes and biscuits and, of course, tea. They have made their house into such a showpiece it will be a perfect place for people to come- and in the summer they have that wonderful wide porch and garden. It sounds like so much fun, I hope it becomes just popular enough. (Don’t want to exhaust her!)
Here’s a random thought I had this week. People say that gamblers are addicted to risk. I don’t think they like risk at all. I think they become gamblers because by restricting their lives to only specific areas where they can keep track of the odds (how many of which card, ratios, etc.) they are exerting control over their lives. I think they tend to eliminate anything they can’t break down that way from their lives. I’m not sure where that thought came from, but there it is.

Sunday we finally saw Avatar (now I want to see it in 3-D and see if it’s different). The story was good, if somewhat along traditional lines. Saturday the girls went down to spend the day with their “zodiac” friends, and Steve came up to see me- and we thought we’d go see Avatar, but when we got there, it was sold out. We’d actually looked into pre-purchasing tickets on line, since when the girls and I saw Sherlock Holmes movie, we’d originally gone to see Avatar, but it was sold out. But we bet on numbers being down since it’s been in the theaters for several weeks, and we were wrong. We also perhaps should have considered that a 7 o’clock showing on a Saturday MIGHT be one of the more popular shows. We are SO not aware of usual social conventions! So the girls and I tried the next day, and finally made it.
I thought the characters were well done- the general was not portrayed as evil, but very much just not open to any different type of thinking. The similarity to whites stealing land and resources from Native Americans was a bit heavy handed, but it’s odious enough to have a right to be. One would hope that we don’t need reminding that what we did was wrong in that instance, and while our ancestors might have been able to claim ignorance of the level of their wrong-doing, we certainly must not. The special effects were, indeed, excellent. The best part was that they weren’t intrusive.
There were some irritating plot-holes. Like where was the water coming from in the waterfalls coming off the flying mountains? Or why the heck didn’t the substitute avatar jockey get woken up early out of FIVE YEARS of cryo sleep to get some of the training he had missed? Or why are the digging machines so huge? If they have to be transported through space in a situation where space or fuel is so valuable that they couldn’t wake him up early, I’m sure they’d have been the smallest lightest technology that could possibly be developed. Why had the humans with avatars never noticed their night vision? Willow noticed that the Navi were the only bipedal creatures on the planet where most of the fauna had six limbs- even though they appeared to be able to link with almost any of the others. Heck, even here on earth mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, (I’m not sure about fish) …: we’re all four limbed. Only the insects and spiders, with exoskeletons have multiple limbs. I’m cool with variety on a planet, but the similarities make that disparity seem unlikely. But mostly- at the end of the story, we were left with the depressing realization that if the people of earth had already killed their own planet, there is no way that they could accept defeat- they’d be back and kill off the Navi because they had no other option. If it were going to be a true victory, they should have been sending back someone- scientist, shaman, someone with information that would have allowed the humans to live without stealing from them. A military solution is often the only functional one to a crisis, but a long term solution must be win-win, and when you leave the aggressors still lacking what they need for their very survival, the victory can only be temporary. That’s a huge plot-hole if the Navi are supposed to be so wise.
We’re looking forward to seeing the remake of Clash of the Titans although I have NO idea why the Perseus character has no hair. All the other Greeks have hair. Did he have lice? He looks stupid.
This week I’ve finally watched Apocalypse Now. I keep thinking “And they feel that this (killing and destruction) is a good idea, why?” Of course, I felt the same thing watching avatar, but with this one, one has at the back of the mind that it is a depiction of, if not real events, at least events that are very similar to those that really happened. Yes, they did cover the reasons behind a lot of the problems, the American worries about the domino effect, the French feeling that they’d been there and worked on the land, and that gave them a claim to it, the locals wishing they didn’t have to deal with the white encroachers, and of course, the poor soldiers and sailors wondering what the heck they were dying for. Netflix offered Apocalypse Now Redux, which is a reediting, which adds some scenes that were, no doubt, left out for time reasons, and I found really added to the overall story and character development. (They had a setting that let you know when there was an added scene.) It’s long, but it’s trying to show an evolution, so I think it needs it.
I was watching it, as I watch Platoon, last week, for cultural literacy. I’ve heard about it for so long I felt I should know what it was people were talking about. In my case, I spent the 70s happily wrapped in a cocoon of young motherhood and in the middle ages. I am not sure I really knew anything about the war in Cambodia until after it was over (and I saw The Killing Fields and Air America and other fictionalized accounts of it). At least during the Vietnam War I was able to listen to vets talk about it. I was quickly aware that veterans do not talk about their experiences in war to non-vets, but I also (under the influence of my insatiable curiosity) learned that I could sit in the cafeteria with a book open in front of me and if I occasionally turned the pages, the strangers behind me would speak as if I weren’t there. In that way I heard stories that gave me some idea of the mental disconnects that took place. I was bothered by the way they all seemed to disrespect the indigenous populations- joking about driving along in their jeeps and knocking off the hats of the “papasans” they passed, or the girls they screwed. I can’t eliminate the possibility that they could have known I was listening , or that they were trying to snow the other vet, but although I got the impression they were being candid. I suppose the reason they made those war movies was to explore how it effected the people who went through it. It was interesting having watched the young Charlie Sheen in Platoon, and then watching what looked to me like a VERY young Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now. I suppose he was thirteen when his father was making Apocalypse, twenty one in Platoon, and in his forties as I think of him now in 2 1/2 men. Time passes so quickly- the eight years between 36 and 44 seem so trivial, but the ones between 13 and 21 so significant. I guess it hit me because I thought of the movies as having been made at about the same time- sure, during the years I was ignoring serious modern cinema!
I was amused to go back and check because I was looking for Robert Duval to discover that I hadn’t recognized him as Kilgore- he was so much younger than when I’d gotten fond of him as an actor. I have to admit, it was a great movie- not a comfortable or pleasant one to watch, but great. Worth the effort. I shall continue to try to catch up on the other “great classic” movies I’ve missed (open to suggestions), but have to admit I still enjoy the comedies and adventures more. I think I watched about a dozen other movies while getting into the mood to watch it.
Jonathan had in The Polar Bear King, a fairy tale- a less often told version of the Unseen Bridegroom (Cupid and Psyche) story. I enjoyed the visuals, but the acting was so wooden I kept checking the ‘lip-syncing to see if it was dubbed, and it wasn’t. Sad. Caught another fluff one from the library- Failure to Launch, which centered on three guys in their thirties who still lived with their parents, and of course, the girl hired by the parents of one of them to get him out falls in love with him. I was so happy that they did point out that there were valid reasons for households to remain multi-generational, but that it needs to be a group decision. I also got a “fun” one (it is for me), the National Geographic special based on the book Guns, Germs and Steel. Other than that, I’ve been watching more of the TV show Eureka, finishing up season one. It’s very amusing and I’m pleased to have tripped over it.
Last Thursday I watched the other two mysteries with the Navaho cops: Coyote Waits and Thief of Time. I really liked them, and would watch more if they were available. One thing I’ve noticed is that just about every system I look into- whether Navaho Blessing Way, or Hawaiian Huna, or Shamanism, or Hindu, or Neo-Pagan, or Heathenry, or Islam, Christianity and Judaism- each has wonderful, deep spiritual possibilities. Each has wonderful people who walk their talk and live within spirit. This is not to say that each doesn’t have something with which I find I disagree (for example, the Buddhist tenet that Life is Pain- I do tend to disagree strongly with that one, or the whole Original Sin thing in Christianity.)
I got a collection of short stories A Touch of Dead, the ones Charlaine Harris wrote about Sookie Stackhouse that support but don’t duplicate what happens in the books. The thing is, that because they are part of the canon, and occasionally the characters in the book refer back to these things that have happened, I’d gone back looking for them in the books several times and not found them, so it was a great relief to finally get to them. Mostly what I’ve been reading is The Lady with a Mead Cup- the book Arwen loaned me. She called it “chewy” reading, and I’ll admit it’s full of footnotes (that make me lust after other books), and cross cultural references that have me fascinated. I have generally avoided works on the continental Saxons and also books from the clerical perspective, but I’m getting over that- in the Dark Ages most information is gleaned from peripheral sources. For example, when I need some “light” reading, I’ve been dipping into Gregory of Tours History of the Franks. Sounds dreadful, doesn’t it? But when I actually started reading it, it’s a very personal account by a contemporary writer about what the people around him are doing- and because he’s a cleric, of course he deplores misbehavior, but he reports on it with relish, and admirable candor. “Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles… ” Well, I haven’t actually seen giants yet, but all the other stuff, with some kidnappings and adultery thrown in that the Princess Bride quote didn’t cover. And what I’m able to glean from it is bits like “during dinner, as the custom is,a servant stands behind each man with a candle…” (as he goes on to tell how one reprobate made his servant hold the candle between his legs and Gregory says he enjoyed that the servants legs got burned and there was nothing the poor fellow could do), so that says something about lighting; and there have been several references to the use of cupping glasses for infections- I didn’t know they used those in Francia at that point. Little details like that, although I dread having to try to find the references again when someone asks me where I got the various bits I’m learning.
I’m also, at the same time, reading Lords of Battle, which is about the phenomenon of the comitatis (or warband) and how it was central to the culture of Dark Ages Britain, to both Saxon and Celt. Lady with a Mead Cup explores the female’s relationship with the warband. I’m a bit hesitant to embrace all of the author’s conclusions- she seems to me to suffer from the usual over-eagerness to interpret everything through a religious lens. We don’t know that spindles and other weaving apparatus, wine strainers, buckets and other drinking-ware were not status symbols, but I find it hard to claim that they all are- with the further implication that they reflect the woman’s prophetic abilities. Let’s face it- almost every woman produced food and drink, and produced cloth and clothing. Only the occasional woman is noticeably psychic, and certainly not all women are high status. (For every woman who wore a silver strainer at her belt, I’m guessing there were dozens who had wooden ones that have rotted away.) I also feel that when one combines reports that were made many centuries apart and takes this as an indication that the culture was uniform or at least static between those times, it’s stretching the limits of credulity. Still, it’s wonderful to examine the combined evidence and draw my own conclusions. (Have I mentioned before that ridiculous study I read where they argued that the bigger the knife in the grave, the higher the status, because children had little tiny knives, and they only had borrowed status, and women had middle sized knives, but guys had big knives, completely ignoring the fact that a knife is a tool which works best when sized to fit the hand using it? If I’ve already mentioned it, I’m sorry for repeating myself.) I’m going to have to go back and re-read the Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity and Christianizing Kinship, as I read those five years ago, and would probably understand them better now, considering what I’ve learned since then. Reading Gregory really brings into focus the differences in how views of kinship and marriage were being changed by the spread of Christianity during the 6th century, and how while nominally Christian, with Bishops and masses and such, many of the attitudes of the period were still firmly rooted in the Gaulish and Germanic heathen world-view.
When I have a yen for something less historical, I’ve been reading The History of Energy Transference. and I’m near the end of the Vikings audio course, and at the 8th I think, in the German. I have developed a theory that perhaps the Germans are less able to process dairy that I’d have previously thought- because so many of their words contain sounds that in the US would mean that the person was clearing his or her throat. That they have to do it constantly may be indicative of an overly phlegmatic culture. (This is, of course, meant humorously.)

So I’ll finish this up now and get back to painting- I’m working on several at once now, trying to let one bit dry while I paint on another. I’m doing tree branches now, and if they smear I spend more time cleaning it up than I did painting.

*Those who never retract their opinions, love themselves more than they love truth