How many times have I read The Road since picking it up in December? I stopped counting at 31. For about a month or so this is the only book I read. I'd get to the end, start all over, get to the end, repeat. Eventually, upon advice of someone dear to me, I put it away. It's underneath the mattress. Am pretty sure this book kept me alive in the immediate aftermath (for reasons that I can't articulate, and frankly, don't understand). It's also a phenomenally outstanding work! Truly one of the best things I've read in the last five years.
Okay I'm off to throw up again, and then troll the news sites to see what type of reaction Oprah's gotten over this pick.
The copyright notice didn't transfer over when I made this poster. The image in this post is copyright Richard G. Lowe of Renaissancefaire.net. I love this picture!
So! The Renaissance Pleasure Faire, running weekends April 7 through May 20 up at the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area in Irwindale! 45 years! Woo and all that. I never realized I could possibly do improv until four years ago during The Second Worst Year of My Life, when I went to faire as usual planning to do little more than eat, walk around and look at everything, eat some more, drink, and shop. Due primarily to Lady & Lord North of Friends of Faire, whom I knew only through the previous day job and watching them over the years, that was the year I decided to cross the line between attendee and participant. (I talked about this a bit at the old site, but because Blogger and Google Blogger are ass, I spiked that site and can't link to those entries. Thus, the summary.) Because I had no clue at the time what was truly involved in becoming a participant, I found myself hunting down The Elect the next year thinking I could volunteer as a PA or something, only to end up enrolled on cast, much to my shock. Guess it's okay to admit that two weeks before opening that first year (2005), I was still considering backing out. On the vast list of things I'm grateful friends talked me out of, running away in fear is one of them.
Set building and performer training for show begins about a month before opening day. Various crews descend upon a piece of blank land and build a town from scratch, which is pretty awesome to witness. A vast majority of these people building the set are volunteers, as are the instructors who handle our training. Some of them are professional actors, others are people with a passion for history who share what they've researched over the years with the rest of us. Just as one of the reasons I love being involved with CCI is due to the massive levels of awsome of the people who comprise the staff? Same thing with faire.
The training workshops all massively useful, but this year two in particular stood out for me and I wished both had been offered when I first started this whole faire thing.
The first was about dealing with the Queen. Eventually in this overly long ramble here, I explain why I avoid direct contact with the Queen. (Short version in case you don't want to clicky - I don't know what to do, I'm not a strong enough of a performer to stand to her, I tend to be covered in filth and don't want to be smashed by the head of costuming by getting filth on the Queen's Highly Expensive Outfit. So unless someone physically drags me in front of her, I tend to restrict to interacting with the Queen from a distance, via proxy.)
This class was taught by The Queen and the guy who plays Southhampton. Last year we Puritans had an encounter with Southhampton that was a hoot, but happened so early in the morning that no audience members had gotten back to that part of the set there to see it. Throughout I kept wondering why we couldn't break him. I got my answer at this class! This guy has been doing faire for 20-something years, since he was seven-years-old, and he has spent his entire time as part of the queen's court. When he said that during his class, a lightbulb went off. We'll *never* break this guy, though of course we must continue to try. <cackle>
The Queen's class was pretty much designed to tell people like me why we should not be afraid to attempt interaction with her. One interesting bit was realizing that I was not the only person worried about approaching her. They laid out the boundaries, gave us a few ideas of the types of things we could do, and explained in detail how the people of the Elizabethan era reacted to the Queen showing up in their town. The two of them ran the class like a stand-up act and it was great! It was entertaining as well as informative, especially the section about 'ambush theater' which is a negative thing I had never thought about before. Because of this class, this year I'm going to change one thing I do during progress with the audience and try to turn something that's kind of ambushy into something a wee bit more positive that better fits into the overall vibe the directors are going for. What I have in mind is actually something I did when Brother Sheckle and I went to Escondido, where we wanted to be somewhat polite because we were visitors at a show that had no tradition of Puritans so we toned it down. I don't know if it's going to work, mainly because the audience at our show is huge and due to inexperience I lack the skill of others on cast who can slice a group of people out of horde and get them to listen and obey, but it's worth a try. We'll see what happens.
I think improv is a lot like writing. The only way to improve is to challenge yourself and risk failure. The difference is when you fail, you do so in front of a whole bunch of witnesses, 98% of them with cameras. Rejection is easier over the transom. It's a bitch when the rejectors are two feet away, staring in puzzlement and pointing cameras at you.
The other class was about staging for the street. The guy who did this one had a little wipe-board and shelf attached to a tree! The first thing I thought when I sat down was Ah! A fellow Type A. I'm in good hands. He drew diagrams, talked about phenomenally useful things dealing with how your voice carries depending on what is around you. Because I'm not an actor, most of what he said was brand new information to me and I wish I had learned all this back when I first started with show. I think this class should become a permanent fixture for workshops. (For the record, it may already be, but I don't remember seeing it on the schedule during the previous two years.) I'm going to try to apply what I learned in this class to the steets, if for no other reason than it would be a good thing to show up at work on Monday with a functional voice. I tend to blow out my voice every weekend and don't get it back until middle of the week or so.
This guy also had AMAZING hair. The only other time I have ever seen hair that ooo was when Mr. Shutterbug and me did a story about a horse out at the LA County Fair with a mane and tail so beautiful it had its own cosmetic contract. (We called it Danzing's Horse, becuse it was almost as big as a Budweiser horse, it was glossy jet black, and it looked like the sort of animal a deathmetal guy would ride around on.) Anywho, at one point the instructor took his hair out of his ponytail and let it flow, and I wasn't the only one to go O My God. But I was the only one to say PLEASE don't put your hair back into a ponytail! He did so anyway, using a term I had never heard before - Hair Porn. He didn't want Hair Porn to distract from his class!
Another class was cool in part because it let me cheer from friends of mine. This class explained to us the need to become familiar with all of the elements of our show, everything from the stage acts to what's offered in the food court. That's not as obvious a message as an 'outsider' would think it to be, but I'm not going to get into the reasons why here. Let's just say I'm glad she said it, this class gave me something to think about, and I'm glad I was tipped off by several folks to take it.
This class was taught by one of the big bosses. During it, she talked about how a simple thing can be turned into a highly entertaining street gig, using two of the Irish as an example because she happened to see them do their yarn thing. It was all I could do not to jump up and scream OMIGOD I know them and they're GREAT! That's them on the left at the very early stages of this particular gig. Alas, one of them might not be at show this year and I don't know if any of the other women in their group will attempt to replicate this gig, but I hope someone does because it is drop dead funny. When I got home I sent them an email to let them know good things were said about them.
Okay, that's enough about workshops. Title of this post was swiped from Sexy Beast, the fantabulous neo-noir movie with Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley and Ian McShane, because pulling off Renaissance Faire is *all* about preparation. If you've never seen this movie, rent it.
If you are just joining us and have no idea what I'm talking about, click on the "Sundays With St. Electus" category over there on the siderail. Or, for a much shorter version with a few select pictures mostly swiped from the uber-fabulous Richard The Ninja Photographer, click on the "St. Electus: Holier Than Thou" photo album, also on the siderail. (The photo in this post was swiped from St. Ives.)
So, as with many others, Ms. Classy and her man are leaving California because they want a house and would rather not have to work nine jobs each and sell body parts in order to afford one. There's the usual mix of sadness/rejoicing at this decision. There was discussion of a goodbye party, and it wasn't until I asked at what culinary venue it would be held (hoping they'd pick that awesome Indian place on La Brea) that I was informed it would be held at my headquarters.
To which I said HELL NO. Show opens in three! Because my new costumes were approved last month, BGF HQ has been turned into a props workshop, with just about every available space turned over to one project or another. One thing I immediately realized I liked about doing faire is the excuse it gives you to make Stuff. The textile area is in the front room, the cutting/glue area is in the middle room, the wet & messy things are spread out between the kitchen and the bathroom, and the drying racks are in the bathroom and the bedroom. And, you know, I haven't even started the blood eggs, okay? So NO DINNER PARTY IN THE HOUSE.
Then Ms. Classy went into Bossy Mode. Few things are more alarming than watching two bossy black women trying to Out Boss each other; our bossy contests tend ot end in a stalemate. She sent the list of her favorite dishes (as if I didn't remember them). I sent her a pdf scan of my Franklin Covey for this month. She unleashed a flurry of Emotional Manipulation notes and calls. I made violin sounds and hung up on her. I held my ground until Mr. Classy called up to explain that no, REALLY, I needed to make this happen. In the end there was a compromise. I would cook a goodbye feast for just the two of them, she had to break the news to the rest that they could not come and needed to have a drinksfest/dinner somewhere that was not my house. While there was some whining from the peanut gallery at that, it all worked out. Yay!
We pick up our tale when they walked into Glue Gun Girl Central. Here's a slightly reconstructed exchange of that evening:
Ms. Classy: It's like a camp counselor went batshit in here. Moi: Told ya. Ms. Classy: Are those (redacted)? Beause they look like (redacted). Almost. If they were giant mutant (redacted) Moi: Yes! I'm not going to finish off the tops until I get on site. I'm going to borrow some (redacted) from the horsies. Mr. Classy: I don't get it. Moi: It's for the (redacted). I think. I'm not really gonna know until show. I just want to be prepared. I might not use them. Mr. Classy: ... Ms. Classy: Boy, don't touch that. She like to kill you. Moi: No worries. That's just bling for the hootch. Mr. Classy: A little tacky, don't you think? Moi: Yes. And? HAHAHAHAHA! Mr. Classy: ... Ms. Classy: What's this? Moi: It's going to be a (redacted). One of the genius children at Ives told me how to do a much simpler version than what I had in mind. Mr. Classy: What's an Ives? Ms. Classy: Honey, the grown folks are talking. Mr. Classy: ... Moi: Here, have a pamphlet about Jesu. Check it for typos for me, sweetie? Mr. Classy: ...
Then they both wanted to know how one of the redacted things worked. So I hooked her up to it, explained how it worked, and within a few minutes she went to town! Making this thing is that easy. All you need is time. I won't have the time to make it as big as I wanted, but thanks to a fabulous donation of supplies from Beast, it will be big enough.
Ms. Classy: You're going to do what with this? Moi: Come back on Easter Sunday and find out! Oh, wait. You're leaving for where there is SNOW. You won't be here to see. You'll be buried in SNOW. Ms. Classy: Call and give me the highlights when it's over. Moi: I'll go into Great And Massive Detail! Ms. Classy: Lord, have mercy.
Over dessert they critiqued the various pamphlets I've been collecting/researching since last season to help me make the final selections, both content and paper choice. There's one in particular I've been very much on the fence about, but they're right. The vast majority of our audience won't know that this one came out 200 or so years after our show is set, and a bunch of them won't know that Glasgow isn't in England. All they'll know is it *looks* right, fits their expectations of what a Bible thing from way back when would be. Ms. and Mr. Classy agree with everybody else that it's a bad idea to make six . Just have the one. So just the one I will have!
Finally, as we all worked our way through the second bottle of Reisling, they got to mock as I fail to get all the way through Edwards' When the Wicked Shall Have Filled Up the Measure of Their Sin, Wrath Will Come Upon Them To The Uttermost, which is one of his sermons. (A good chunk of time since last season has involved reading about the Puritan founders and their works. That's turned out to be very interesting and fun.) I really wanted to memorize one Edwards and one Turrentin sermon, but there are simply no short ones! All of these preachers went on and on and on. They would have fit right in at the churches of my childhood. Eventually I decided to focus on just the Edwards one, in part because it's in chunks that could be delivered quickly and on the fly. However, I have done a sucky job of memorizing just the bits I selected due to levels of busy. (When I would practice on the phone with James, he'd say "you don't sound wrathful enough," and I'd tell him that's because he can't see me waving my arms around in hysteria, which is part of the whole. He'd usually reply that neither Bill, Malcom, Jessee or MLK needed to fling themselves around to convey the power of their words, and if I was relying on physicality it meant I sucked. Needless to say, I'm still working on it.)
Aside...I was really surprised that I couldn't find a free version of "A Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven" out there on the internet(s). It's as if this thing has never fallen out of print and into the public domain for billions of years. The academics have it locked up in their journals which require academic creds to access. Bastards.
Ms. Classy and I ended the evening by crying all over each other. I gave her the mudcloth placemats I made for their new home, she informed me that the box set of Deadwood season three has been pre-ordered and will show up on my doorstep on release day, we cried some more, and eventually Mr. Classy managed to pry us apart and drag her off into the car. They hit the road two days later. I am going to miss my friend.
If i weren't already primed to pick up Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity, I would be after last night's fantastic talk by Pagels & King at the Central Library. They did it symposium style, pacing around a little bit while tossing to each other as they delivered an engaging lecture. Then there were questions. Some of the questions were excellent. Some of them made you wonder if the person had been on the phone or perhaps napping during the previous hour.
Rather than type up the pages and pages of notes I took ("My, you write fast," said the lady sitting next to me), and assuming if you're interested in this book you've probably already been following the mad press it's landed, how about just a few highlights:
This codex, when originally found, was in perfect condition. But when the seller didn't get the price he wanted, he placed it in a safe deposit box in NYC for 17 years, where it dissolved into tiny fragments. On top of that, someone had the bright idea that putting those fragments in a freezer would help somehow. Thus, it took five years to restore it, and much of the original text was lost. King said the lesson to be learned: "Don't put your papyrus in a safe deposit box in New York for 17 years."
The fact that this thing survived means it was treasured by someone, an assumption made based on the labor involved in copying a text back then. This one in particular was copied over and again and handed down for hundreds of years, and was referenced all over the place in other works, so the scholar types knew it was out there and were able to recognize it when it finally showed up. The way Pagels put it "It takes devotion to copy a text."
Other texts refer to this gospel as dealing with "the mystery of the betrayal" and that act which threw "heaven and earth into chaos."
The papyrus has been carbon dated and the results came back legit.
There's very little in the gospel about Judas the historical person.
The Gospel of Judas is an extremely hostile document. Both said they were surprised at the level of anger in it.
What makes this gospel so radical is how adamant it is that what eventually turned into 'official' Christianity is based on a huge misunderstanding. This author is saying followers of Jesus rejected Roman sacrifice, but then they turned around and brought sacrifice into the center of the religion, making the death/sacrifice of Christ the core of their worship and promoting the idea of martyrdom as a glorious act. To this author they are promoting slaughter, and a god more bloodthirsty than loving.
In the gospel Judas starts out averting his eyes. He can't even look directly at Jesus. But Jesus teaches him and brings him along to the point where not only can he look upon Him, but he can look up to the heavens and see the temple. He gets it. The rest of them don't.
Another surprising thing about this gospel is how the other 12 disciples are (my words) played as idiots. They never understand anything and have to be constantly corrected. They see Jesus feed the masses with a few fish and loaves of bread, then they ask for a sign. They ask for positions of power once they all get to heaven. They don't get the whole service thing. (King did this section. The way she presented it was very funny.)
There are some things in the text neither of them liked at all. It's homophobic, and it reinforces the myth that the Jews were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. "There's not a Roman in sight!" is how King put it.
King said something so obvious I'm stunned it never hit me before. We are used to books, publishing, information being passed along via the page. Early Christianity was primarily an oral tradition. That's one of the reasons the growth of the cannon is long, and why to date the scholars still don't have the full details.
As for reaction to the book among the religious set, it just came out so they haven't really been able to tell. "Some people are going to say 'put it back in the ground', some people are going to say 'let's take a look at this,'" King said. The sort of people who would like to bury it aren't the sort to show up for the tour talks and yell at them.
"The Gospel of Judas, far from being bizarre and marginal, takes us right into the center of what Christianity would become," said King.
I can't wait to get this book! I've read all of Pagels' other works, but I've only read one of King's. I think I shall rectify that down the road. Should their tour come to your neck of the woods, and if you're interested in this topic, it's well worth heading out to see them.
Meanwhile, thanks all for the birthday wishes, auto responders are off, I'm making my way through the inboxes, and if you're waiting to hear back on a note, you will soonish.
I dunno. For all this 'active debunking' he's rallying against, the cited examples seem a bit dated. A book published in '95, another in '92, a conference in '91... Something is fishy about this piece (even as it reminds Us of one of our Favorite Sites Ever). I'll read this again when I have time.
Since I missed the event they just had with the author of the new book about Rosetta Tharpe (WOOO) because I didn't check the website and they don't have an updater feed thingy for their calendar (DAMMIT), I'm putting this here so such a tragedy does not happen again. There was a thing at Book Soup a couple of weeks ago I forgot about, too. If these outlets had calendar update feeds, my life would be easier. As much as Google gets on my last nerves, at least the feeder service it has is convenient.
You've figured out by now that what I did was pre-load the blog not for the week or so I was gone, but for the week I returned, yes? Yes! That's because you're clever.
This is Mbuti Pygmy bark cloth from the Congo, probably made in the Ituri forest, but the translator wasn't sure if they were made by a collective of people from the forest, or if they comprise of materials gathered in the forest but put together by other people elsewhere. (That kind of thing is important to me when dealing with textiles that come from regions where it is difficult for people to earn a sustainable income and/or control their work.)
All I know is that it was UNBELIEVEABLY cheap (which, I must admit, is not a good sign as far as the sustainable income thing goes). One of the pieces they gave to me for free to experiment upon, probably because both of them got tired of my endless questions of what it could take. I knew what it was when I saw it on the table, but having never touched this stuff in real life I needed to know what happens if it gets wet? What if it's in the sun for an extended period? Woolite, regular or baby shampoo? Does it fall apart if you cut it? What if I need to iron it? Stuff like that. They were like, WE DON'T KNOW! STOP ASKING THESE WEIRDO QUESTIONS!
I cut a chunk out of the free one and have been experimenting with water soaks, stretching, letting it air dry, ironing it, crinkling it when wet, letting the cat chew on it, and putting it in the dryer at the 24-hour drug dealer lalundry. Can say this so far - this is some tough stuff.
There's a poem I like very much that I've been thinking about turning into a fabric piece for myself. I tend to make these cloth things for others and never actually get around to doing one for myself, but when I saw this detail --
-- knew I had to use it for the one for Me. I have no idea what I'm going to do with the rest of this bark cloth, but down the road if an idea hits, I'm set. It has an interesting texture. I also like the way it smells.
Nope.. I'm still not actually "back" back. It just looks like I am.
Which reminds me .... anyone else notice how the LAT didn't do a write-up of the Pan African Film Festival until one full week until the run, but this debut Grindhouse festival got a huge write-up two days *before* it opened? Just sayin'.