August 6th, 2007

Jack

The SCA is fun, & other stuff

Lets see if I can portray an accurate account of the events in the past few days before I run out of steam & have to lay down.

Today I visited the home of Offbeat "drummer" Eric's house to help say goodbye to one of their members & welcome a new one. Food was good & I was glad to see folks again but I unfortunately had to leave before their first performance due to a family obligation.

My aunt & uncle were in town to visit my parents on short notice. My uncle is a truck driver & hauls freight across the country so we only see him once every year or so. It was good to see them but I would rather have stayed at the party as most of the afternoon was spent listening to Dad & his brother talk about financial plans or current events & people they knew in the small town where they grew up. Didn't even get to tell anyone about the Bon Dancing Festival at Mitsuwa the day before.

Yesterday (Saturday) Jon & I met Bob-San & other A-club regulars at Mitsuwa in the Chicago area for the above mentioned Bon Dancing Festival. Much of the parking lot was cleared out to make room for the vendor stands, games & the big stage where they held contests for watermelon smashing, Ramune drinking & other more traditional events. I met Anjean & co. there too where I helped her attempt to smash a watermelon with... mixed results.

My favourite part of the festival was the drumming. There were several performances throughout the day & I made my way to the stage whenever I heard the rhythmic concussions of mallets against stretched leather. It was energizing to watch & listen. Performances like this are really a must-see. Drummers do more than just beat on the drums; they are choreographed together & to the rhythm, with graceful poise, arms swinging in precise movement for a visual as well as aural feast.

Much feasting was had too. There were many booths selling Japanese food where I treated myself to takoyaki, Ramuni & some stuff that's just difficult to describe. Unfortunately, due to the rain that finally made good on the threats it had been casting all day the event was cut short. Bon dancing was bumped ahead of schedule so at least some could be done before it got too wet. Jon & I left before that part of it was over having already had a tiring but fun & fulfilling day. I don't know if the other events were canceled but I do know I'll try to return again next year.

Friday (the 3th) I had to work, but only in the evening. Dad needed a ride to the festival in Utica where they were having the horse pulls that evening. Tho' not at all a country boy I do enjoy an occasional horse pull & much prefer them to tractor pulls which are largely too noisy to hold my attention. It's really quite impressive to watch when you realize a team of two horses at three thousand pounds are working together to drag a sledge of bricks twice their combined weight. Dad especially enjoys these events so we stayed until well after dark.

Wednesday (the 1rd) was a busy day as I had to get up early to help bluntobject move two pickup loads of furniture & boxes into his new apartment. He was kind enough to buy me & his other helper lunch & when we were done I still had most of the day ahead of me.

I headed over to the west side to check out a few things & made a spur-of-the-moment stop at Ward Brot music to check out their pianos. I played about ten years ago but stopped after a traumatic event & haven't really touched it since. Even when I still had the fish I had decided that a piano would make better & more productive use of the floorspace than the aquarium. Now that the fish are gone & the tank is clean I've had a great desire to take lessons again & actually make something of them. If I can prove to myself that I will follow through with practice I might actually get a real upright piano. I priced them at Ward Brot & found a few that were reasonable & looked quite nice (like the way light turns to liquid & slides off the surface of a new car) but I just wasn't happy with the sound. Now, those that have been to Ward Brot know about the room. This room houses some of the best instruments they sell & back in my pianist days I'd go in & hammer out Elanore Rigby or Harvey the Wonder Hamster on the most expensive piano I could find. When I went in this time that piano was a grand Steinway that cost more than my house! I couldn't get to it however as workmen were unboxing & assembling another, taking up a great deal of space. I did manage to get to an attractive Yamaha upright. The YUS5 PE I believe. This one was specifically designed to sound like a grand. It sounded as gorgeous as it looked & I knew immediately it was the one I wanted. But it was still in the room, & I haven't even blown the dust off my old keyboard. Time & perseverance will tell. But one way or another that darn aquarium's days are numbered.

Being on the west side I made my way to Barnes & Nobles to pick up the book The World Without Us, which is a great thought experiment in "what if humans were to completely disappear from the planet tomorrow." It's a close look at what we as a race have done to the Earth during our time here & how long it will take for it to recover once we're gone. I think it's a fascinating read whether you're pro-vhemt or not. It will be going with me to Camp American Legion next week if I haven't finished it by then. Unfortunately & don't know anyone else who has read it & I'd really like to discuss it with someone before I make everyone sick by talking about it.

The real highlight of Wednesday was that night when I found my way to the Stock Paviliaion on campus where the local barony of the SCA was meeting. I finally followed through on an old dream of learning to sword fight. A couple friends & members directed me there to find a plethora of friendly & helpful people who were happy to find a new person interested in their work. After visiting with the local Knight to go over the basic guidelines a young woman known as Rasheen (probably misspelled) loaned me a shield & rattan sword & gave me my first instruction in heavy combat. We fought in slow motion & she instructed me as we went. All I had was the shield & sword for protection but she was in full armor so I could really wail on her if given the chance. This was actually part of the test because if you're not able to thump on someone hard enough for them to feel it through all their armor & padding then you're not going to get very far in competitive fighting. I'm really looking forward to going back & learning more, & I've been told that there are plenty of members who should be able to help me find or teach me to make my own equipment. Either way I'm hooked, & I'm already disappointed that I won't be able to make it there for another two weeks. I also really want to go to the Bristol Ren Faire now. Anyone care to join me?

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The Boss of it All

I have just returned home from seeing The Boss of it All at the Orpheum.
In (writer/director) Lars von Trier's small-scale, Automavision (computer-edited) Danish-language film comedy Ravm (Peter Gantzler) is the spineless (but mean) CEO of an IT company. He's such a people-pleaser he's hidden his real rank all along so the staff won't resent his more unpopular decisions. Now on the verge of selling the company out from under them, he calls in a "self-important, out-of-work" actor, Kristoffer (Jens Albinus) to play the role of "boss of it all"—be his front man by proxy to sign the papers.

The above synopsis is all I knew of the film before going in, discovered a few weeks ago in an issue of The Onion. The movie was not a disappointment, & I'm glad I made the last-minute trek through the rain to catch the day's last show. If you would like to check it out there are a few things to note: 1) The film is in Danish with English subtitles. 2) It's largely set in an office. The subtitles are white & often on white backgrounds. This is probably an oversight in the production of the translated version but doesn't detract from the story; just don't sit too far back from the screen. 3) There is an early scene where an Icelandic businessman is negotiating with a Danish businessman through an interpretor. If you don't speak either language it could be a tad confusing. But knowing that much should help sort out the subtitles. 4) There are lots of jump cuts. It may be part of the director's style but they can disorient the passage of time.

But what I really want to talk about is a trailer shown before it. It appears Live Stock Films has made a serious adaptation of the Monty Python Killer Sheep sketch. I'm not normally a fan of this type of horror film but this one I gotta see.

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